Swiss Army Man starts with a young man named Hank (Paul Dano) who is stranded in a deserted island. Bored, desperate, and lonely, he wraps a rope around his neck to end it all. But before he can proceed with the act, he spots a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) washed ashore. The dead man proves to be flatulent, with his farts strong enough to propel his body across the sea. Hank uses the corpse like a jet ski and is able to get to the mainland but still far from civilization. Fortunately for him, the dead body, who he learns is named “Marty”, strangely has the capability to be used in a variety of ways, like a Swiss Army knife (hence, the title) – using parts of its anatomy to gather and store water, chop wood, start a fire, launch projectiles, or even be used as a compass. Marty also quickly learns how to talk, and he and Hank begin sharing many conversations about life and its principles along their journey.
With what seems to be an odd and silly premise, one wouldn’t expect this movie to be very philosophical. But it is. It has several scenes that presented some insights worth reflecting on. It’s also a genuinely heartfelt drama with effectively poignant moments.
The humor is amusing and mature. Though there are penis and fart jokes – the most juvenile and crudest kind of jokes – they sensibly fit on the narrative of the movie instead of being put there for cheap laughs.
The acting is pretty great. Paul Dano believably portrayed a desperate, probably delusional, man lost in the wilderness. But the real delight is Daniel Radcliffe. Coming off from watching him in Imperium, the former Harry Potter star continues to impress me in his portrayal of a semi-animated corpse. That may sound absurd on paper – acting like a corpse – but watch this movie and see how Radcliffe killed it.
Swiss Army Man is a weird movie – probably the weirdest of the year. It’s the kind of movie that isn’t for everyone. But it’s a fresh, original movie that die-hard cinephiles will greatly appreciate. Once this film grows on you, it turns being an exceptional, interesting watch.