While attempting suicide after being stranded on an island, a young man named Hank comes across the dead body of another man floating up on the beach. What he discovers is that the corpse (named Manny) is somehow slightly alive. The two journey through the forest in hopes of finding survival. Along the way, Hank works to remind Manny of what it’s like to be alive.
The plot description above makes this sound like a weird film. That description doesn’t even begin to cover how weird and odd this film is. But for a movie involving a farting corpse that gets crazy erections, believe it or not it has a lot of depth to it. The aforementioned aspects of the film provide some great laughs, but at it’s core there’s heart to it in terms of the relationship between Hank and Manny. Hank is established as a depressed and lonely person, even prior to his isolation on the island. It’s only when he meets Manny that he starts to for once feel a kind of human connection and able to discover and recognize the beauty of life. It’s definitely a lot to take in, but in all actuality, that’s what makes this movie so unique. And in a way it’s kind of the theme of the movie, that there is a sense of depth and special quality in things that are odd or different. On that note I’m starting to side super cheesy and thinking way too much about it. Point is, despite the weird idea, there is a great story at hand. However I did find myself a little ambivalent about the film’s ending, not really sure what I make of it. I can see why they would want to end it that way, but at the same time it isn’t exactly the ending I would have preferred, nor is it one that I feel works with the type of story it was trying to tell. That aside, the chemistry between Paul Dano as Hank and Daniel Radcliffe as Manny is solid. It’s a different role for both actors, more so for Dano is more accustomed to more serious or darker roles. Radcliffe isn’t a stranger to odd roles, but this one takes the cake, and I gotta say it’s probably his best performance in my opinion. There’s not a lot of action involved for him, but he conveys so much humor and even some emotion with his limitation of facial expressions, and it works in his favor. Dano provides a lot of heart and humanity in the role of Hank. At time you question his sanity and whether or not you are rooting for him, but in the end you do feel sympathy for him, and Dano emits all of this with ease. It’s also worth noting that this has some amazing and beautiful cinematography in capturing the woods setting and some of the more fantastical moments (ex. when the two leads are gliding upon the water).
As said before, Swiss Army Man is a film where it’s very comedic and weird, but it’s also one you have to massively suspend reality and get into the depths and heart of the story. The lovable characters and top-notch performances by Dana and Radcliffe really help make this possible.