I have been waiting for a movie like this for years! Something that is not based on a book or television show. Something that is not a remake, a reboot, or a sequel. But something imaginative and original. After receiving polarizing reception at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (causing a lot of people to walk out within ten minutes at the premiere), Swiss Army Man is one of the most bizarre movies I’ve ever seen. Imagine Cast Away directed by Michel Gondry and written by Charlie Kaufman.
We open up with Hank (Paul Dano) stranded on an island months after his boat crashes. He’s about to hang himself until a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up shore. The corpse—dubbed Manny—is actually flatulent. Hank later uses Manny as his #1 survival tool; he has many abilities compared to a Swiss army knife including using his farts to propel forward like a jetski and his erection as a compass. They both go on a crazy adventure back to civilization.
How can a movie featuring a flatulent corpse be one of the best movies so far this year? Swiss Army Man is more than just about the toilet humor (be prepared for a lot of it). Not only is it funny, it’s also a heartfelt picture about the ways of life through love and regret. Farting is a natural process of life. Without Manny, Hank would continue to lose every brink of hope. With the island serving as a symbol for Hank’s grief, Manny’s farts become symbolic for freedom and having a connection with someone. Thanks to the marvelous screenplay and direction by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known for directing the music video for DJ Snake and Lil John’s “Turn Down for What”), the movie goes in many deep paths.
Fresh from delivering a wondrous portrayal of Brian Wilson in last year’s Love and Mercy, Dano is a revelation as Hank. It’s hard not to relate to the hell he is going through. He has an offbeat sense of humor, and–kudos to its practical effects–his stunts resemble those of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton. His chemistry with Daniel Radcliffe is one of the reasons why this movie works. Even though Radcliffe’s post-Harry Potter career hasn’t been the strongest, this has to be one of the oddest yet most ambitious roles of his career. From staying underwater for long periods of time to being carried on Dano’s back to acting dead and occasionally talk, he has a massive heart.
Unlike the traditional orchestra, the score—performed by Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of the Manchester Orchestra—is a cappella. In one funny scene, Hank starts to hum the Jurassic Park theme with Manny joining him. There are scenes in which these two start humming a tune until the music takes over for them. I guarantee this movie will not be for everybody. Once you get through the farts, Swiss Army Man is a one-of-a-kind movie. A wild, devastating journey that I will never forget.