Writer-Directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Schinert bring audiences Swiss Army Man, a strange adventure about a man and his corpse. Does the film cut through its inherent weirdness to connect with moviegoers?
Hank (Paul Dano) is a man stranded on a desert island. He has lost all hope and is on the verge of hanging himself when he sees another person wash up onshore. This is Manny (Daniel Radcliffe). The problem? Manny is a corpse—a very flatulent corpse. Hank finds that his new corpse buddy has all kinds of uses to help him get off the island and return home. However, is home really where Hank wants to go? Once Manny starts talking to him—because that happens—we learn that Hank wasn’t hopeless simply because he was stranded. Will Hank get home? What will happen to Manny when that happens?
Swiss Army Man has two things going for it. It’s funny—though the farting corpse gag can get a little old—and it’s imaginative. All the ways Hank devises to use Manny are great and Manny becomes much like Wilson in Cast Away, the difference being Manny has a voice…that and he’s not a volleyball. However, as the movie gets closer and closer to the end, it gets creepy and uncomfortable and not in a good way. I found myself really not liking Hank. He’s easy to sympathize with because he’s so lonely, but at the end of the film, things change. I’m being vague because I don’t want to spoil anything, but Hank wasn’t as endearing to me by the end of the film as he was in the first two thirds.
Dano is great as usual here. He’s a very talented actor and he perfectly captures the desperation and madness of a man stuck out in the middle of nowhere with no hope of rescue. Radcliffe has the really difficult job here, though. It’s harder than you’d think to play a dead body and Radcliffe pulls it off spectacularly. He also does a great job once Manny, shall we say, re-animates. The pair have great chemistry, which is needed in a film like this where one character needs the other to get them around.
Overall, Swiss Army Man is an imaginative, funny, and melancholy film that fell apart for me in the last fifteen minutes or so. It felt like the Daniels had a great premise, but no way to properly end it. It’s still enjoyable and weird, but it definitely isn’t for everyone. Check it out if you’re looking for something weird.