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Swiss Army Man

Swiss Army Man

Released 30 September 2016
Directors Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan

Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Antonia Ribero, Timothy Eulich
Writer(s) Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

Miranda Bailey, Lawrence Inglee, Lauren Mann, Amanda Marshall, Eyal Rimmon, Jonathan Wang
Origin United States
Running Time 97 minutes
Genre Adventure, comedy, drama
Rating TBC

A lot of hot air.

Within five minutes of the opening of Swiss Army Man, Hank (Paul Dano) is riding Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) like a speedboat as they are propelled through the water by Manny's impressive flatulence. Manny, by the way, is a corpse. Reportedly, as soon as Radcliffe read this scene he knew he had to take the job – if a year down the line he saw some other actor shooting bare-bottomed across the sea he would bitterly regret not taking the role. This gung-ho approach to filmmaking is to be encouraged; if you can't take risks then why bother? Clearly this is a mantra also followed by directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known collectively as 'Daniels') who have created one of the strangest pieces of cinema I've ever seen. And that's really saying something.

The film begins on a deserted island where Hank has been stranded for some time (I could complain that I never understood how he got there but soon that was the least of my worries). As he is trying (unsuccessfully) to hang himself, he sees a body on the shore and is overjoyed at the prospect of some company. Sadly, the body is deceased but to Hank's astonishment soon begins to show strange signs of life – namely flatulence. Using this gift, Hank and Manny leave the island on the search for their dream girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). As Manny becomes more animated, Hank finds new ways to use his corpse (like a Swiss Army knife – get it??) and the pair strike up a friendship.

I know it's the raison d'etre of the film but personally I could have done without the farting... For the first ten minutes my finger hovered over the stop button as my nausea rose. I'm quite glad I resisted because over the course of the film the relationship between Hank and Manny really started to grow on me. There have been many complaints that the film is too arch and ironically detached for its own good – I found the opposite. The film is resolutely childish and in this childishness is a silly sincerity. Dano and Radcliffe are both completely committed to their roles and work extremely well together. Theirs is the kind of imaginative friendship that would crop up between two ten year olds and despite myself, I found it all kind of charming.

I'm not exactly sure how this happened and I can see that most people who see Swiss Army Man will hate it, some will see it as nothing but a self-conscious curio and a very small percentage will come away feeling strangely heart-warmed. It takes all sorts.

- Linda O'Brien