Emotional Logan cuts like a knife
Film review by Katie Walsh
Forget Batman vs. Superman or Captain America vs. Iron Man. In James Mangolds moving tribute to X-Mens Wolverine, Logan, its all Logan vs. Logan.
He strips away the spandex, the posse and the chaos, distilling the story down to the essence of the man, Logan, also known as Wolverine, also known as James Howlett. Whats left is the agony and the ecstasy of mutanthood, which star Hugh Jackman expresses as physical and mental torture. Logans greatest opponent is, and always has been, himself.
In this near-distant future of 2029, Logan shuns his mutant abilities. He drives a limo, racked with a hacking cough and a craving for liquor. He seems to be disintegrating before our eyes; hes grizzled and mangy and those adamantium claws dont unfurl like they used to. He mostly uses them for fending off hubcap bandits anyway. He toils alongside Caliban (Stephen Merchant) at a secretive Mexican camp to care for Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whom theyre keeping drugged up to keep his apocalyptic seizures at bay. Its not much of a life, or a legacy.
But this film almost isnt just about Logan, its also about Laura, a character who first began popping up in comic books in 2004. Played by newcomer Dafne Keen in her first film role, Laura boasts similar talents and characteristics to Logan, and the two share a feral rage when provoked. Shes smuggled out of a Mexican genetic engineering facility, and Logan has been entrusted with delivering her to safety in North Dakota. And so begins a long, strange, dark and violent trip for Logan, Laura and Charles.
Mangold pulls no razor-sharp punches in Logan the film is horrifyingly, grotesquely violent, as Logan and Laura fight to evade the clutches of bounty hunter Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant), who wants to contain mutants and develop their bodies into weapons. In Laura, Logan finds a part of himself worth fighting for, and do they ever, particularly in one brilliant sequence paying homage to Mad Max: Fury Road.
Jackman, a gifted physical actor, demonstrates tremendous range and gives the performance of his life as the deteriorating Logan. Its a big performance, raw and compelling as hell, and his finest, most emotional work. Its also refreshing to see an unleashed Stewart. And Keen is a wonder, a tremendous discovery. Step aside, Eleven, theres a new tough girl in town.
About halfway through Logan, Mangold, who wrote the script with Scott Frank and Michael Green, pulls the rug out from under us with a shockingly dark twist. This is after weve become accustomed to the sight of a tiny girl ferociously slice and dice a bakers dozen of assassins, but its still an emotional bomb blast. Its manipulative, but after that, we know all bets are off. No one is safe in Logan.
There are repeated references to the classic Western Shane, about a good gunfighter protecting the vulnerable. Its an apt comparison, if heavy-handed, but damn if it isnt effective, employing poignant words from the movie to do the impossible: wring tears.
Mangold turns the lens inward in the introspective Logan, subjecting this character and his legacy to an onscreen vivisection. The themes of otherness and corporate exploitation could have been pushed further for more impact. But Mangold never strays from Jackman, who is explosive and mesmerizing in the role he made iconic.
Walsh writes for Tribune News Service.
LOGAN 3.5 out of 4 stars Rating: R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity. Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant Director: James Mangold Running time: 2 hours, 17 minutes