Sunday, 26 February 2017

Logan: Film Review

Logan: Film Review

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Richard E Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Eriq LaSalle
Director: James Mangold
Hugh Jackman as Logan in Logan
That Logan's ending makes you feel the story is incomplete is both a testament and a damnation of the latest film that arrives with the announcement that after 17 years, Hugh Jackman's hanging up his adamantium claws.

For the large part, Logan, complete with its ageing hero, shuns the majority of the X-Men world and the mutants that have spawned so many films over the past 17 years, that have smashed box offices but been received with such varying degrees of success, and diminishing creative returns. 

Hugh Jackman as Logan and Boyd Holbrook in Logan
And confined to the sidelines (for the most part, aside from a messy third act that falls back into lazy ways), the fleeting mentions and glimpses of that world serve up a rich atmosphere to Logan that's to die for.

Limping, riddled with the ravages of old age, and forced to work as an anonymous chaffeur to hen parties and American frat boys chanting USA (heaven knows the parallels between mutants running amok and certain US policies on Mexico feel frighteningly near the bone here), Logan has shunned the mutant life. The year is 2029 and nary a new mutant has been discovered in decades.

But when Logan's approached by a woman wanting him to transport her and her young mute charge to a specific location, he finds himself drawn back into a world he'd believed he'd left long ago.

Re-teaming Mangold with Jackman, and then throwing in Stewart is a master touch in this Old country for Old men style road trip. It's the tender relationship between an ageing Charles Xavier, riddled with dementia and a deteriorating mind now classed a WMD, that speaks volumes to this film. Filled with warmth, empathy and an occasionally scratchy dynamic that feels human and as that of a carer and their charge, it's the emotional centre of the film.

Stewart's rarely been better in the role - there's a mournful regret imbued throughout and the interplay between both Jackman and him feels natural and intimate, as they both rue over the tragedies of the past and as Xavier tries to get the dying Logan to revel in some of humanity's offering.

Tying in elements of Mark Millar's Old Man Logan storyline, the grounded, almost mournful, movie has a great deal of craft and heft as it plays out. But Mangold's not afraid to let the film live up to its R-rating, with brutal action and swift dispatches in the opening moments being more than enough to satiate those who've desired to see Wolverine's anger in action over the years.

But in amongst all of this, it's the human touches which make two-thirds of Logan stand head and shoulders above what's come before and what's gradually eroded the CGI-heavy-world-being-destroyed-previous outings. A large part of that is due to Jackman's wearied and scruffy scratchy hero as he limps his way through an old time western story (in fact, Mangold uses an entire sequence from Shane to parallel the X-Men ethos and Logan's reticence to embrace what he actually is).
Sir Patrick Stewart as Xavier in Logan

From minor moments to Logan grabbing a cigar at a convenience store, to Merchant's albino mutant Caliban bemoaning the fact he'll become like a Nosferatu below deck, there's a poignancy and acknowledgement that's carried through this film and embodied by Jackman's grift and grit. There is no Wolverine without Jackman, and while Mangold's pointed out that parts of Logan owe a debt to Mickey Rourke's beaten pugilist in The Wrestler, it's Jackman whose subtle turn gives emotional heft to an anti-superhero film.

It's a shame then that the final sequence in Logan, with its typical X-Men stylings and fight within a wood is the film's one weak point. A falling back into the lazy ways of mutants showing powers and deja-vu that ultimately mean the end, when it comes, lacks the emotional resonance and wallop that it should easily possess. And while Keen as the new sullen and muted mutant becomes a ferocious, almost feral, presence in a blistering action sequence, she's lost in the cacophony of an FX-heavy ending.

Logan is at its best when it stays within its emotionally intimate confines and it's this which marks it out as a superior action-film. Imbued with a heart and a pathos that's hard to shake, the thrills are more evident in the quieter moments, than in the larger scale sound-and-fury that becomes its end.

However, if this is truly Jackman's farewell to the role, then both he and Mangold can hold their heads high. They've done the mythology of Wolverine a great service with this last brutal and occasionally emotionally bleak outing - and Jackman's earned himself a place in the pantheon of iconic celluloid characters with ease thanks to this powerfully-engaging swan song.

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