Swiss Army Man – Blu-ray Review

The Movie (4.5/5)

There certainly did not seem to be a market for movies featuring a decomposing, excessively flatulent corpse, but the Writer/Director team of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who go by “Daniels”, have done the impossible, creating one of 2016’s most unique films in Swiss Army Man. The film follows Hank Thompson (Paul Dano) who finds himself lost on a deserted island, ready to end it all and hang himself, until he sees a man (Daniel Radcliffe) wash up on shore. Hank frees himself from the noose and rushes to the man’s side, trying to get a response and resuscitate the man, before realizing that the man is in fact deceased. As Hank takes the man’s belt and begins attempt number two at suicide, he notices that the corpse begins to fart, quite violently in fact, and comes down to examine the body. Finding that the farts can actually propel the body through the water, Hank ties a rope around the corpse’s stomach, pulls hard, and rides the corpse across the ocean like a jet-ski, using the constant farts as a propulsion device. If you are disgusted by this beginning, or do not find farts and corpses to be funny, then I would stop reading and choose another movie to watch, because this is only the tip of the iceberg.

 

After that opening scene, Hank realizes that the corpse is actually alive, and able to talk. His name is Manny, and Hank and Manny go on to have a magical tale of adventure through the forest they have landed on as they look for a way home. Much of Swiss Army Man will leave you wondering whether Manny is all in Hank’s head, or if in fact Hank possibly died in the opening scene, and this is all a dream. These questions abound, as Hank and Manny’s relationship develops further and further, and it really leaves the viewer engaged and always looking for clues as to what actually may actually be going on.

 

Swiss Army Man is one of the most unique films I have ever seen, but also one of the funniest. The laughs are constant, if you enjoy crude humor, and there is the hilarious element of Hank needing to teach Manny how life works, as Manny has no prior memory of the world and is essentially a talking newborn for much of the film. Dano and Radcliffe have a sort of chemistry that is absolutely remarkable, and Radcliffe’s performance is the best of his career. You may find yourself questioning the meaning of Swiss Army Man, but I’m not sure you need to find one in order to enjoy the movie. Personally, I felt that it was an inspiring movie, where Dano’s character, a stereotypical shy loner type, finally finds a way to break out of his shell and discover the meaning to his life, which was deeply in question right from the start. The ending to the film will leave you with plenty of questions, but it is ultimately a satisfying and enjoyable experience.

Paul Dano, in an interview talking about how he accepted the role of Hank, noted that he was sold after hearing a one sentence description from the directors, who said they wanted to make a film where “the first fart makes you laugh and the last fart makes you cry.” There is simply no better description for Swiss Army Man than that, and it is on my short list of best films so far in 2016. I highly recommend it.

The Video (4.5/5)

Swiss Army Man was shot using a variety of cameras, techniques, and resolutions, ranging from an Arri Alexa to a Red Dragon, and from 2K all the way to 6K depending on the shot. The film was finished for theaters in 2K, and so the Blu-ray is a nicely blended version of all of these different techniques in an extremely sharp, stunning 1080p image. This release is one of the nicest looking low-budget films of the year, which comes as no surprise considering the directors’ backgrounds in the music video industry. The “Daniels” are masters of visual stimulation, with their resume including one of 2014’s most widely awarded music videos, Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What”, which was as weird and visually stunning as Swiss Army Man.

There is a blueish/green tint to most of the film, which meshes well with the forest/ocean backdrop. I noticed no signs of lost visual acuity, and the Blu-ray presentation was solid from start to finish. There were a couple of awkward visual sequences where heavy CGI had to be used, but they did not do much to distract from the overall experience. Swiss Army Man is already one of my favorite films of 2016, and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite Blu-ray releases as well as I spend more time reflecting on my experience.

The Audio (5/5)

Sporting a powerful Dolby Atmos soundtrack (sidenote: the Dolby Atmos intro is one of my favorite ever), Swiss Army Man sounds fantastic on Blu-ray. For purposes of this review, I listened to the core Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track, and it was a fantastic, totally immersive experience. Swiss Army Man already pulls you right into its magical storyline with its visuals, and the audio experience is just as powerful. The music, done completely a capella, took a few well-known songs and changed lyrics to match what was happening on screen, and it really kept the tone of the movie in unison. The “Daniels” specifically requested that no instruments be used in the score, and they managed to follow-through with this idea and still deliver what I thought was one of the best scores of the year.

The surround sound audio on this release was excellent, with the echoing forest providing for some great ambient sound effects. Dialogue was clear, even over the sound of my constant laughter, and the audio was balanced perfectly across all channels. Swiss Army Man demands that you give it your full attention for its entire 97 minute runtime, and the audio never gives your mind a chance to wander. I highly recommend watching the Swiss Army Man Blu-ray on at least a 5.1 home theater, or you will certainly be missing out on some of the technical highlights of this release.

Special Features/Packaging (3/5)

Swiss Army Man comes packaged in a single disc eco-case, with a glossy slipcover in the initial print run. Included with this release are a Blu-ray disc and a Digital HD code, which can be redeemed on iTunes or UV services. The cover art features the main characters on a rock in the middle of the ocean, with no disc art, and although something really unique could have been done here, everything looks fine.

The special features are pretty average fare, featuring a commentary track with the “Daniels” team, Production Designer Jason Kisvarnay, and Sound Mixer Brent Kiser. I would recommend the commentary, as it offers some insight to this truly unique movie, and Kiser’s experiences with the fart noises is legendary. The rest of the features are as follows:

  • Swiss Army Man: Behind the Scenes – roughly 15 minutes of cool behind the scenes shots, with some hilarious scenes with Radcliffe and his “Manny” dummy.
  • Making Manny – all about the “Manny” dummy, and how that process worked.
  • Deleted Scenes – 9 minutes of deleted scenes.
  • Q & A with Filmmakers  – over an hour of footage with the filmmakers, focusing mostly on the Dolby technology, as the Q & A took place at the Dolby Institute.

Technical Specs (click for technical FAQs)

Video

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Audio

Dolby Atmos

Dolby TrueHD 7.1

Subtitles

English SDH, Spanish

Runtime: 97 minutes

Overall (4.5/5)

Swiss Army Man is a prime example of why Hollywood needs more low-budget, original films which can take a simple premise and deliver an amazing product. A24 continues to discover and distribute the most unique films of this decade, and they have quickly become one of my favorite film labels. I know when I see that A24 logo, I am getting a high-quality product. The technical merits of the Swiss Army Man Blu-ray release are top notch, and the film itself is a real treat. Special features and packaging could still be improved, but that should not prevent you from running out and grabbing this one as soon as you can. You can find Swiss Army Man on Amazon, available now.