RedEye goes to Sundance 2016

  • ‘Swiss Army Man’

    Trust me, you won’t find anyone more inclined to check out of a movie once farting comes into play.

    Somehow, though, in one of the many startling achievements of “Swiss Army Man,” bodily functions are reclaimed as simply a natural part of life, compartmentalized by the parameters of society. Not that society seems to exist anymore for Hank (Paul Dano), who’s been stranded on an island long enough to feebly send S.O.S. note after note into the sea and, ultimately, decide it’s time to hang himself. Then, suddenly, another living thing. Actually, it’s just a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe), which pushes Hank back to his suicide plan until the body begins emitting gas and Hank discovers he can ride this farting corpse like a jet ski.

    If you give up on the movie (or this review) here, it would be a mistake.

    Unconventional and difficult to properly capture in words, “Swiss Army Man,” written and directed by the music video directing duo known as the Daniels (DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What,” Manchester Orchestra’s “Simple Math”), might have been like some Millennial prankster version of “Cast Away.” Instead, it’s original, ambitious, absurd, honest and unexpectedly beautiful. That comes from the haunting, all-vocal score by Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull and Robert McDowell and from the performances of the leads, a great pair as Hank teaches his new friend Manny—mini-spoiler alert: Radcliffe does have more to do here than lie down and make it look like he’s not breathing—about being a person and how that contrasts with being a person around other people.

    It results in something that’s perhaps overly articulate, often expressing itself in rather direct terms. But the Daniels have exquisite comic timing, and “Swiss Army Man” isn’t all talk; it’s physical and imaginative filmmaking that compresses love, sex, music, art, loneliness, family, instincts and needs into something cleansing and life-affirming, suggesting that letting your freak flag fly won’t connect you to everyone, just the most important ones, with yourself being included in the latter category.

    3.5 stars (out of four)

    Selected quote: “If you don’t know about ‘Jurassic Park,’ you don’t know shit.” — Hank