Hank (Paul Dano) is a man with no reason to live. Alone, stuck on a desert island with no hope of rescue, he is just about to end it all when a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on the beach. It quickly turns out this is no ordinary corpse.
First off, the corpse’s chronic and apparently endless flatulence allows it to be used as a jetski. And can also be used to fire projectiles. Soon, more talents are revealed, such as the ability to store large quantities of drinking water and a head so hard it can be used for campground construction.
But then, the corpse begins to speak. Manny, as he introduces himself, has no memory of his life. It is up to Hank to help Manny piece his history together while learning a lot about himself.
Oh, and Manny’s erection also acts as a compass. Just in case you thoughts things might be getting a little high-brow.
The Daniels Kwan and Scheinert are music video veterans and Swiss Army Man is their feature debut. It has a quirky, indie style with some often very beautiful imagery, interspersed with some toilet humour. The objective is clearly to use the broad comedy as a stealth way of getting some dark introspection through and it…mostly works.
It is immediately apparent that Manny’s animation is all in Hank’s head and his investigation into Manny’s past is him dealing with his own issues. The affectation is very strong, as we see Hank reaching out to Manny with a series of roleplays and Michel Gondry-esque creations and his own reticence to unveil his past lends everything a bittersweet air.
This great conceit carries the film, along with towering performances by Dano and, yes, Radcliffe whose innocence as the childlike corpse is immediately endearing.
The film doesn’t quite stick the landing, though, with the ultimate reveals a little blunt and lightweight. The gentle nature of the film would have enabled it to get away with some pretty heavy issues if it so desired, but the Daniels seem content to play it safer in that regard.
Swiss Army Man is a deft movie created with some real talent. It is fresh, unique and has real charm. In these days of remakes, sequels, reboots and prequels, this is more than worth a look.
The DVD touts a number of featurette extras, but these are all extremely short and superficial. It is a little disappointing, given they tease that a large amount of behind-the-scenes footage was shot, not to mention glimpses of scenes not present in the final film.