Every once in a while, you come across a movie that leaves you almost completely speechless at the end. There are several reasons as to why this would happen, including films that are so good (or so bad) that you just can’t put it into words right away, but then there are films where you simply have no idea what you just witnessed and are left a little bewildered by. One such film is Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan’s “Swiss Army Man,” a film that almost defies description based solely on its incredibly bizarre premise. It’s the kind of film that has you wondering what was going on in the minds of its writers for them to come up with something so surreal and unique, but even from its outset, there’s no denying that it’s something that gets your attention within the first few seconds.
Hank (Paul Dano) has washed ashore on a deserted island after his boat got caught in a storm. Fearing the worst, he decides to hang himself, but stops when he notices a corpse has washed up on the beach. He soon discovers that Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), as the corpse comes to be called, has many uses, including an amazing build-up of gas that allows Hank to use him as a jet ski across the water. Things only get stranger when Manny starts talking to him, asking various questions about this and that (he apparently forgot many things while he was dead). As Hank continues to make his way back to civilization, lugging Manny along with him, we begin to learn more and more about him through his conversations with his new friend, making for an intriguing journey of not only survival, but also of self-discovery.
It simply can’t be overstated just how unusual a film this is, and at first, that just might be what ends up turning a few people off, but for those that keep with it, you’ll more than likely be glad that you did. On the surface, it’s a somewhat simple story of a man trying to get back home, which is a story that might have been a little too ordinary to grab an audience’s attention, but the intriguing way in which it’s executed brings it to an entirely different level, elevating it to the point where you have to keep watching based just on the fact that it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before.
It’s not a perfect film by any means, for there are times when even the bizarre premise isn’t quite enough to cover up the few lulls that the story has, but what it lacks in story is more than made up for in its fascinating characters. Hank is something of a mystery. We’re not entirely sure what was going on in his life prior to the storm and getting washed up on the deserted island, but we do learn that things weren’t going particularly well with his love life or with his father. As he begins to teach Manny about things like love, riding a bus, and more, we are slowly given pieces of Hank’s background, drawing the audience in as the curtain is partially pulled back on this man we’ve been following for the entire film.
As for Manny, he’s the biggest mystery of all. We never truly get to learn anything about him, but what do you expect of a dead person who suddenly starts talking to a friend in distress? When it comes to the end of the film, there are many explanations that can be given for Manny’s character, explanations that dive into the nature of what’s really been happening for the entire film and why Hank has been having conversations with a corpse along his journey, but again, this is another layer that helps lift the story up from what would have otherwise been a rather mundane survival tale.
While it does contain a somewhat compelling story, “Swiss Army Man” is much more about the experience of seeing something this strange turned into a film. Along with that experience comes characters that you can’t help but get engaged with, brought to life with marvelous performances from Paul Dano, who has to deal with a surprising amount of character depth, and Daniel Radcliffe, who has to deal with a number of difficult character complications all his own. Again, it’s certainly not without its flaws, but what Scheinert and Kwan have given us here is rather bold, daring, and undoubtedly different, and for that it’s definitely worth the brief 90 minutes.
“Swiss Army Man” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The film is filled with gorgeous cinematography and production design, and the perfectly clear and sharp image does a great job of showing it all off. The Dolby Atmos audio is equally impressive, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects (including the multitude of farts), and the great score in outstanding quality. Overall, the film has been given exceptional treatment, leaving you with a great experience in both areas.
Audio Commentary with Directors/Writers Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, Production Designer Jason Kisvarday, and Sound Mixer/Fartist Brent Kiser: An excellent commentary that mainly has the directors/writers taking you behind the scenes of the making of the film.
Swiss Army Man: Behind the Scenes (17 Minutes): An outstanding featurette that goes behind the scenes of the making of the film, featuring interviews with the filmmakers and lots of footage shot on set.
Making Manny (3 Minutes): A very brief look at the making of the Manny dummy.
Deleted Scenes (9 Minutes): A decent collection of deleted sequences and more.
Q&A with Filmmakers (67 Minutes): An intriguing Q&A at the Dolby Institute with Directors/Writers Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan and Sound Mixer Brent Kiser.
“Swiss Army Man” is a bizarre and unique experience that features excellent performances from Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. It may have a few lulls throughout its intriguing tale, but its unusual premise and compelling characters make for a film that you can’t help but stick with, even if it’s just for the fact that you simply can’t believe what you’re seeing. Directors/writers Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan took a pretty big gamble here with their twisted story, but for those who are open to something a little different, that gamble was certainly worth the risk.