Synopsis: A hopeless man stranded in the wilderness befriends a dead body and together they go on a surreal journey to get home.
Release Date: July 1, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Adventure, Comedy
Some of the biggest buzz coming out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival was centered on a little movie about a shipwrecked man who makes friends with a farting corpse. Now that it has gotten a wide release, everyone can see if Swiss Army Man lives up to all of the hype. The short answer; it’s exactly as weird as everyone says it is.
Swiss Army Man is about an island castaway named Hank (Paul Dano from Love & Mercy) who has lost all hope and plans to kill himself. Right as he is about pull the noose tight, he sees a man wash up onto the shore of his island. He investigates, and finds that the man is dead. That little detail doesn’t stop Hank from befriending the corpse and naming him Manny (Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe). It’s not surprising that a lonely guy like Hank would talk to his new friend, but what is surprising is that Manny talks back. Hank ends up using the assets of his dead companion, things like uncontrollable flatulence and the stiffening of rigor mortis, to help him get off his island and make his way back to civilization.
The first feature film from the writing and directing team of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (who work under the singular name Daniels), Swiss Army Man is one of those movies that is so crazy that it leaves the audience wondering what the hell it is that they’ve just seen. Basically, if Tom Hanks’ character in Cast Away went insane, you’d get Swiss Army Man – with the part of Wilson the volleyball being played by Manny the farting corpse.
Flatulence and gassiness aside, Swiss Army Man is not all fun and games. It’s an unflinching look into what’s left of the mind of a man who sits on the brink of his own destruction. From the get-go, the movie raises serious questions about the reliability of Hank’s narration – is the audience just an observer of his fever dreams as he tries desperately to cling to hope in the form of a dead man who just happened to wash up onto his beach? Some of the questions are answered by the end, and some are not. Those that are not will bother and confuse the viewers who demand closure.
Swiss Army Man is bound to be a divisive movie. It’s the brand of wacky that will anger some people and amuse others. More conservative viewers will be offended by it, which in turn will offend those who aren’t offended by it. The film will start discussions, arguments, maybe even fistfights. Love it or hate it, movie fans will all have to deal with Swiss Army Man in some way, shape, or form.
A unique movie like Swiss Army Man deserves an equally unique soundtrack, and one is provided by Andy Hull and Robert McDowell, both members of the indie rock band Manchester Orchestra. The score is pretty much all vocals, with most songs starting with Hank singing, then having Manny join in, and finally, both of their voices wind up getting lost in an entire orchestra of vocal layering. Essentially, what the audience hears is what one would assume Hank is hearing inside his confused head, simple songs full of whoa whoa whoas and da da das that blossom into complex and rich sonic textures. And it’s magnificent. Much of the music is original, but there are some familiar tunes that sneak their way in, stuff like the old folk song “Cotton-Eyed Joe” or the main theme from Jurassic Park. Whatever melodies are being presented, however, it’s all done in the same strangely brilliant pop choral vocals-only style. The score to Swiss Army Man is an essential element of the experience.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Dan Kwan
- Producer(s): Miranda BaileyLawrence IngleeLauren MannAmanda MarshallEyal RimmonJonathan Wang
- Screenwriter(s): Dan KwanDaniel Scheinert
- Cast: Daniel Radcliffe (Manny)Paul Dano (Hank)Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Sarah) Timothy Eulich (Preston)Richard Gross (Hank’s Dad)Marika Casteel (Reporter)Andy Hull (Cameraman)Aaron Marshall (Police Officer)Antonia Ribero (Chrissy)
- Editor(s): Matthew Hannam
- Cinematographer: Larkin Seiple
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Stephani Lewis
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Andy Hull
- Music Performed By: Robert McDowell
- Country Of Origin: USA