One of the most original and absurd movies of the year, Swiss Army Man is the kind of film that it’s probably best to know very little about before entering the cinema. The basic premise is that Paul Dano is a man at the end of his wits, ostensibly shipwrecked on a desert island and in the act of taking his own life when a corpse washes up on the shore. Playing the role of the deceased, Daniel Radcliffe turns out one of his finest performances to date – and that’s not a thinly veiled jibe at his much-maligned acting acumen.
The plot develops from here in various degrees of fantasy and reality, but any more knowledge about it runs the risk of spoiling the surprise. It’s a chameleon of a film, by turns flirting with lofty philosophical ideas and investigating such themes as societal acceptance, mental illness and sexual embarrassment with apparent gravity. However, don’t go in expecting a straight-shooting sermon on the nature of life; writer and directorial team Daniels cram in more fart and boner jokes than perhaps any other movie in history.
Those with an aversion to such crass humour might be put off entirely, which would be a shame since the film genuinely does break some new ground and raise a myriad of interesting points about various different subjects. Although its over-reliance on bodily functions for much of the laughter does wear thin, the pairing of Radcliffe and Dano yields some hilarious scenes and great physical comedy set-pieces that push the boundaries of what can be done on the silver screen.
What’s more, the outlandishness and innovation of the script is enhanced by superb cinematography and a flawless score. The simple, catchy nature of the soundtrack could threaten to become repetitive in the wrong hands, but here it adds tangible atmosphere and meaning to the scenes. The fashionably ambiguous ending rankles somewhat, but the movie itself is bold enough, strong enough and intriguing enough to easily warrant the price of entry.
If you’re in the mood for something completely different, and aren’t put off by juvenile humour juxtaposed with philosophical ponderings, you’ll be in for a real treat.