REVIEW: Swiss Army Man

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An amazing, heartwarming movie made solely for an excessive fart joke. This movie is completely audacious and without shame. The premise is so weird and unique I knew I wanted to see it, but it’s the execution that is so goddam impressive.

A man [Paul Dano] is stranded on a small island in the Pacific Ocean. He’s been there for a long time and has strung up a rope to hang himself. Right before kicking out the cooler he’s standing on he spots a human body lying on the shore. After almost accidentally killing himself while just trying to get down he runs over to the body only to find that it’s a dead man [Daniel Radcliffe].

He attempts CPR only to be rewarded with the corpse farting. After taking the man’s belt to attempt to hang himself again the man once again notices something while inside the gallows noose. The body farts again, but this time violently and without stopping. The corpse starts motor-boating back out into the ocean. The man hurriedly removes the noose again and runs out to grab the corpse. He gets there and then holds on tight, mounting the dead man and riding him away from the island to freedom. 

This long morbid fart joke is how Swiss Army Man opens and while it’s amazing, the movie is only uphill from here.

He soon finds himself on some other unknown beach, although still not back in civilization. His phone is low on battery power and he can only turn it on occasionally to check for a signal. He decides to bring the strange corpse that saved his life with him and as he spends time with it, new powers start to reveal themselves. Such powers include drinkable water spewing from his mouth and erections that point the way home. Also he learns to talk.

Him learning to talk is actually what drives much of the movie. As he learns to speak he needs to be taught about the world, since he doesn’t remember anything about who he was or his life when he was alive. Including an amazing conversation about masturbation.

That’s really what the bulk of the movie is more like talking about love, and masturbation, farting and riding the bus in the wilderness away from civilization with someone with no memories of his own.  It’s musical, funny and sad. It’s a unique movie that takes some surprising turns beyond what I’ve talked about, but you’ll have to see those for yourselves.

For as strange it is I think the remarkable thing about this movie is how well all that weirdness comes together; how strong its emotional core is. It even wraps up perfectly. The general problem with doing an idea this strange is to keep the story engaging and emotionally resonant while also bringing it together and following through till the very end. It would have been so easy for this movie to have dropped the ball but it holds together and nails it.