News of Swiss Army Man first burst out of Sundance with critics dubbing it the farting corpse movie, a stigma it was sadly never able to detach from itself. People seem to have avoided Swiss Army Man because of its new title when in reality there’s so much more to this wildly imaginative film from the Daniels. Not necessarily to compare it to the revolutionary mindsets of Gilliam or Jonze, but watching Swiss Army Man helped me realize that there are still wild and creative minds out there that can take cinema to its furthest and coolest extremes.
I don’t want to give away anything about Swiss Army Man, because this is a film best served if you go in blind, so I will only say Swiss Army Man is the story of an unusual bromance. Now this relationship is forged by Hank (Paul Dano) and Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) and as the story unfolds, Swiss Army Man soars through its degrading description of its just being a movie about a farting corpse, but becomes something much larger and true tale about love and acceptance. To be honest, the film starts off somewhere quite ridiculous but as the Daniels take us on this journey they begin to submerge themselves into a weirder mindset that lets their creative juices overflow as they provide commentary about what’s right and wrong from our civilization’s perspective. They also have our characters converse about love and failure, parenthood and the moral mindset about doing such things as farting and masturbating, what starts as a wacky parody Cast Away quickly becomes an offbeat societal commentary and story of love I never saw coming.
As we know, the Daniels come from a very musical background where they were do go bonkers in their imaginative depiction of whatever song they were told to transfer into a video. They did this for Foster the People’s Houdini (oddly enough also playing with courses) and the insane Turn Down for What video. If you’ve happened to watch any of those, you know these guys have a clear creative flair and with Swiss Army Man they double down on their creative vision as they pair Manny with all sorts of amazing abilities and build an entire make-believe society out of trash in the middle of the woods. The Daniels creative minds are definitely on display and are reminiscent of Gondry’s work in films like Eternal Sunshine and Be Kind Rewind. Alongside the lively landscape the Daniels paint for us, their musical background shows as well. Tying the film to an orchestrated acapella that also ties into the main characters very emotions is genius. Not only does it cause a greater emotional resonance for the story’s sake, but every song here is charming and fun to hear, adding a greater sense of fun to the primary comedic tone of the film.
Now, the acting in this film is kind of hard to categorize. On one side you’ve got Radcliffe playing a magical corpse and the other Dano a man who’s been away from civilization for way too long. This will obviously signify that both performances are going to be crazy and they are. Both actors embrace their zany nature and play with it, working in perfect sync with the strange tone of the film itself. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is also on the film’s poster, but her appearance likens that of a cameo in its five minute duration. Talking about cameos, there’s a pretty sweet one towards the end involving an elusive modern sci-fi director.
About the film’s tone, I don’t know how it works, but it does. It mixes comedy with romance, fantasy with drama and takes on a sense of magical realism that matches that of Gilliam and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s. Its an oddity and its beautiful for that very reason. Swiss Army Man is tinged in weirdness and converts it into magic, creating what could’ve simply been a dismissed comedic oddity in Dano and Radcliffe’s carrer, but instead becomes this work of creative forces exploding on to the screen in a story that mixes a variety of tones together to create something wonderful.
Swiss Army Man far surpasses any conceptual expectation you might have had of it, not just because its great, but because there’s no way you could possibly anticipate what the visionary Daniels had in store for you. The wacky acting combined with the directing duo’s knack for bringing to life the bizarre in the best of ways makes for one of the most amazingly creative projects of the year, one you surely shouldn’t miss.