SWISS ARMY MAN (2016) is a dreamlike, funny, bittersweet fantasy about a castaway (Paul Dano) who discovers a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe) that can do anything, helping him to survive in the wilderness as he tries to fight his way back to civilization.
This is one of the most oddball movies I’ve ever seen. Paul Dano does a great job as Hank, whose long isolation may have driven him insane, a reality he accepts and simply runs with. Daniel Radcliff, however, chews the scenery as Manny the corpse who eventually learns to talk and ask questions as he tries to remember his life. Manny is a true Swiss Army man, every part of him useful as a survival tool that produces a swathe of laugh-out-loud physical comedy. His innocence, meanwhile, adds to the film’s charming tone of wonder. It all leads Hank back to the real world in more ways than one, as Manny forces him to examine how he ended up a castaway and confront the aspects of his life that had ground him down.
Unfortunately, it all leads up to a wreck at the end. Bittersweet and oddball to the last, though blowing an opportunity to complete Hank’s psychological journey more definitively and to a more positive conclusion. I felt this was owed the viewer, as the character arc itself was thinly explored as the repression that drove Hank away from reality made for some touching reveals but overall were fairly weak as a reason to quit one’s life.
SWISS ARMY MAN is weird, fun, and funny, and while I respected its demand to be taken for the oddball it is, I was nonetheless unsatisfied by its conclusion and its lost opportunity.