Swiss Army Man is a film about Hank (played by Paul Dano) who is seemingly deserted on an island with no food, no other person to talk to; he feels very alone and is on the brink of taking his own life. While he is trying to hang himself, he sees a body washed on the shore. The body belongs to Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), who is dead but has a very gassy body that produces big, powerful farts. Having felt so lonely for a long time, Hank gets a new lease of life when he sees this dead body and starts talking to him like a live person. Soon, the dead body starts talking to Hank too and he is not aware of being alive or being a human at all. With his new found friendship with Manny, Hank decides to find his way back home. During this momentous trip, Manny serves as a swiss army man with multiple functions just like a swiss army knife.
The film is a big fart joke blown out of proportion. There are elements in it that are funny at times with the different ways Hank uses Manny to hunt for food, as a tap for water and most interestingly, to enact romantic moments with a girl Hank has a crush on. These enactments are absolutely mind-blowing with the minutest details of modern life crafted from garbage that Hank finds in the forest or the shore. And the dead body is played brilliantly by Daniel Radcliffe with all sorts of contortions and convulsions you would expect a dead body to be able to do. Throughout the film, you are left wondering if these powers of Manny are real or just a figment of Hank’s imagination. This underlying question of being imaginary or real is where the film really shines.
The final act of the film is rather ambiguous. Besides being funny, the film also tries to be preachy advocating that people in the real world are socially not allowed to do certain things that are normal for every human being. By the end of the film, you are tired of the same fart joke over and over again and it seems that the film desperately tries to end on a positive note establishing this ‘lesson’ that they have been trying to preach all along. This is where I felt that the film fails because it shifts focus from being comic to being tragic.
Swiss Army Man is a film worth watching mostly for its concept, for the dead body played by Daniel Radcliffe and the detailed production design that is absolutely breathtaking. It is a weird, funny movie that is one of a kind.
Swiss Army Man is on general release now