If there is one regret, I have in my years of reviewing film, it’s that I regret not doing some kind of quickfire review for Swiss Army Man. I think it would have made for an interesting read because I had no presumptions when it came to this film. I would argue that the trailer for Swiss Army Man is a perfect trailer because at the end of the day, the main purpose of a trailer is to grab your curiosity, and this film made me very, very curious. So under no presumptions and an interesting trailer, I convinced some friends to see it with me on a whim, what a smart choice I made.
Swiss Army Man is the directorial debut of the Daniels (DANiel Kwan & DANiel Scheinert), it also stars Paul DANo and DANiel Radcliffe. SO MANY DAN’S. the film is a surreal comedy in which Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on a desert island and about to hang himself until he sees a dead body wash up on shore which is later named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe). Hank discovers that Manny can do many strange things, one of which is his endless supply of flatulence and uses his body as a farting jet ski to escape. After washing up on the mainland, Manny starts talking and he has a lot of questions, so Hank teaches him about life, and in turn, Manny uses his incredible abilities to help him get home.
It is incredibly difficult to try and compare this film to any other film because Swiss Army man is so unique in its execution, it feels so new and refreshing when compared to other comedies. I also think that the discussions the film brings up about enjoying life and what it feels like to be loved furthers this idea that Swiss Army Man is not your typical comedy. Hank essentially teaches a dead body how to be alive not just in the literal sense but in the humanitarian sense, which to me is a remarkable concept that is explored through something that would be usually immature and turned it into something metaphorical.
That immature thing is, of course, Manny’s seemingly endless supply of farts. Thinking about films that feature regular fart jokes like some of Adam Sandler’s films, well they’re used as a means to compensate for a lack of well-thought comedy and often will get a quick laugh from its audience. But in the case of Swiss Army Man, It’s fart jokes are not just there for the sake of it, there is a meaning to it. For instance, the Daniels uses this flatulence motif as a metaphor for people bottling up their real selves, so they’re not ridiculed, and I absolutely love it. However, I do understand that some people don’t like stuff like this in films, period, but I implore those people to stick with this film because this film is not a shallow attempt at laughter, it is earned laughter.
Paul Dano is magnificent in this film as Hank, who we learn has run away from home after having his heart broken and feeling lonely. The discovery of Manny gives him the opportunity to not only teach Manny about life but to also learn a new way of living life, some of the discussions and interactions that Hank and Manny have together are funny and insightful respectively. There is an incredibly funny scene in which Hank teaches Manny about sexual attraction and Manny experiences an erection as though it’s the first time happening, but Hank soon realises that Manny’s erection also acts as a compass to help him get home (and you thought farts were the only immature thing in this film). This easily gets the biggest laugh in the film, but there are also sentimental scenes like when Hank shows Manny what it’s like to talk to a girl which also acts as an insight as to why Hank is in the position he was at the start of the film. All these scenes, whether funny or intriguing feel special and make the friendship between Hank and Manny feel perfect like these two were meant for each other.
I’d also like to touch upon the soundtrack to this film because It is a soundtrack that I still have on my phone and have listened too ever since I saw it. The music really brings out the sense of discovery in the narrative, especially during one montage scene where the lyrics match up to the actions in the scene. Not only that, it feels so upbeat with a progressive nature not only in Hank and Manny’s quest, but also in their friendship.
Swiss Army Man is possibly one of the strangest films to come out in the last decade, maybe even further than that. Yet it is the strangeness that compels you to go along with what you are seeing. Yes, you are going to think at some point “what the hell am I watching?” but you going to be glad you saw it through. The two central characters are so easy to admire and Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe have immaculate chemistry. I don’t think I can recommend this film enough to people, and I’m not recommending it for the story or performances or anything like that, my basis is the experience of seeing something different. The strange get’s us talking and you’ll have plenty to talk about after viewing Swiss Army Man.