UK Release Date: 1st March 2017
Runtime: 137 minutes
Director: James Mangold
Writer: James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E Grant, Stephen Merchant, Eriq La Salle
Synopsis: Broken down and bedraggled, Wolverine is forced to go on the run with an ailing Charles Xavier when a young girl ends up in their care, who has special powers that resemble Logan’s in a number of ways.
When Deadpool arrived in cinemas last year and waltzed to a global box office total not far shy of $800m, many of us predicted a flood of R-rated superhero movies cashing in on the swearing and violence that made that film a hit. First to announce a darker tale were Fox who, after the success of their first foray into R-rated filmmaking, decided that Wolverine could benefit from a little extra blood and guts in Logan. Thankfully, the result is not a silly, bloodthirsty romp but a mature, hard-edged film that feels like something genuinely different in the superhero movie canon and a fittingly bittersweet swansong for Hugh Jackman, who has been synonymous with Wolverine for almost two decades.
Logan (Jackman) is driving limousines to earn money in order to get hold of black market medication for an ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whom he is concealing south of the Mexican border along with fellow mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Due to a bizarre set of circumstances, the unlikely group end up caring for 11-year-old Laura (Dafne Keen), who seems to have powers very similar to Logan. Scientists led by Zander Rice (Richard E Grant) and his cybernetically enhanced head of security Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) soon track Logan down, intent on finding Laura, and the group are forced to take to the roads in order to escape.
More than the spoofy silliness of Deadpool or its tonal predecessor Kick-Ass, Logan feels like a genuine move forward for superhero movies. It isn’t necessarily a subversion of tropes or a response to the genre that has come to dominate the multiplex, but it’s simply a thrilling, mature movie that just happens to feature characters with superpowers. James Mangold, who felt restrained when he directed The Wolverine in 2013, returns here with what should be seen as the definitive take on the character – played by Hugh Jackman as a bundle of rage, aggression, sadness and near-suicidal self-loathing.
It’s a special turn from Jackman, who has never given a performance as complex and complete as this one. He weaves in everything we know about Logan in order to produce a man worn down by years of violence, pain and loss – as well as the fact the adamantium within him is literally poisoning him to death. This is also a Wolverine who refuses to align himself with the idol he has been painted as in the X-Men comics that feature in the movie. It’s a nod to our perception of the man as a hero, when he’s really nothing as crude and simple as that. This is a film in which the superheroes aren’t that super – and they certainly aren’t heroes.
The film also serves as a remarkable showcase for Patrick Stewart, who embraces the chance to provide added complexity to Charles Xavier. Logan muses as to what happens when the most powerful mind in history begins to degrade and it suddenly becomes a land mine that could detonate with one false step. Both Logan and Charles are frail and vulnerable in this film, which provides the story with the kind of believable stakes that the $200m edifices of the Marvel Cinematic Universe can only dream of. It feels as if every character is at risk, particularly in the wake of the splattery violence.
Logan‘s R rating is certainly earned from the very start. The first word we hear is “fuck” and the opening scene sees Logan reluctantly hacking some petty criminals to pieces in a cacophony of expletives and arterial spray. It’s an intense mission statement and one that the rest of the film follows up with some of the most bracing violence on the big screen this year. Every swipe of Logan’s claws has consequences, not just on the eviscerated victims, but on the man himself and every kill almost seems to leave a physical mark behind Jackman’s haunted eyes. A third act confrontation between Logan and a formidable foe is eye-watering in its brutality, directed with an unflinching eye by Mangold, and brings the film to a gripping, poignant conclusion.
In amongst the bittersweet brutality of Logan, there’s an oasis in the shape of newcomer Dafne Keen. As Laura, she’s every bit as capable of getting her hands dirty as Logan is, but she has a palpable optimism and hope that is a wonderful counterpoint to the relentless nihilism of Jackman’s performance. Keen is near-silent for most of the film, but has a real ability to convey emotion through physicality and I would have no complaints if she became a focal point for a series of X-Men movies that would surely be far more interesting than the new generation teased in last year’s dismal Apocalypse.
It would be wrong for Logan to bring about any sort of “revolution” and a string of superhero movies that are packed with needless violence and F-bombs. Here, the rating suits the character, suits the performances and suits Mangold’s unique, brave take on an unchained Wolverine. The violence and explicit language is a vital cog in a film that is less about superhero action than it is about the toll that enforced heroism can have on a person who has lived for far too long and seen far too much.
Pop or Poop?
Logan is a very special movie, in which James Mangold and Hugh Jackman produce something genuinely brave that pushes the boundaries of what a superhero film can be. It’s bittersweet, mature and character-focused, with very few sneering villains and no grand plot to bring a city tumbling to the ground.
It’s quietly revolutionary in its approach but, more crucially, it serves as a fitting farewell for Jackman, who has been Wolverine for his entire movie career and has never been better than he is in this remarkable film.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
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