Review: Logan (2017)

Logan

Rating

Director

James Mangold

Screenplay

James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green

Length

2h 17m

Starring

Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, Quincy Fouse

MPAA Rating

R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity

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Review

After sixteen years in the role of Wolverine, Hugh Jackman has accomplished something few other actors can claim: giving life to a character and carrying that vision towards its satisfying end. Logan represents the culmination of his nearly two decades’ work with a grisly, brutal adventure that eschews pop contrivance for contemplative minimalism.

Although Jackman had made appearances in two Australian films prior to taking on the role of Wolverine in 20th Century Fox’s genre-revitalizing X-Men, the iconic actor has turned in one of the most fascinating and rich careers in Hollywood. Hosting the Oscars once and the Tonys four times (second only to Angela Lansbury in a tie with Neil Patrick Harris and Robert Preston), Jackman has picked up numerous accolades, including an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in Les Misérables. With Logan and his heart-rending performance, he may have out performed everything he’s yet done.

Set in the near future, nearly every mutant is now dead, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, in a staggering role) is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and Wolverine’s regenerative capabilities are dissipating because of the slow poisoning of his Adamantium skeleton. Wishing he could still fight with the same vigor he once used to eviscerate countless enemies, but knowing that he can’t, Logan comes to the realization that his only goal is get away from the constant battles and lead a normal life as breadwinner for him and a pair of mutants holed up in a rusted-out water tower.

When a fugitive nurse attempts to secure Logan’s services to transport a young girl (Dafne Keen) north into Canada where she can be taken in by a mythical band of free mutants, his initial reticence is assuaged by the promise of money, the tragic murder of the nurse, and the revelation that the young girl is a mutant like he is.

For Jackman’s third and final solo film as the legendary X-Man Wolverine, Logan is an unrepentant journey into the dark soul of one of the most iconic characters Marvel has ever created in a sea of icons. While Disney is busy churning out easily palatable comic confections, 20th Century Fox has been quietly building a pensive, visceral universe in which its characters can delve into realistic explorations of theme and humanity.

Jackman, and his character James “Logan” Howlett, was a key component of each X-Men film, in spite of only a single cameo in X-Men: First Class. He has been an inseparable part of the X-Men universe, and thus he’s been afforded the opportunity to dig into the character with both sets of claws and wring out a complex, complicated, and conflicted character who earned his own solo effort, the only one yet for a cast member of the original X-Men films. Through three solid efforts, each increasingly more compelling, Jackman has delivered a fearless, full-throated performance, culminating in this career-topping effort.

The film, written and directed by James Mangold, follows Logan in his waning life. At his side is an albino tracker named Caliban (Stephen Merchant) who helps him care for Xavier as they hide out as the last remnants of metahumanity. Mangold’s script and accompanying direction is a work of fine craftsmanship. Taking the framework of the traditional road movie and grafting comic book conventions onto its skeleton, Mangold achieves what has been heretofore difficult to accomplish: taking an ostensibly unrealistic concept and shaping it into a realistic, contemplative treatise on aging, vengeance, forgiveness, and compassion. It’s a film of myriad layers that peel away slowly revealing a core of human foibles and perseverance.

The script explores the rough humanity of a mutant who’s life has been hard fought, but whose body is no longer able to heal itself with the same ferocity that allowed him to annihilate his foes with little effort and come out of bloody conflicts unscathed. As his regenerative abilities fade, his age begins catching up with him and his injuries become more pronounced and impeding. This isn’t a glory-filled superhero romp where a great hero must face off against massive global conspiracies or strange alien threats. It’s a drama where sacrifice, compassion, and humanity are explored with grit and grim determination.

Jackman may be delivering his best performance to date, one that feels as relevant and significant as anything from perceptually more mature fare; however, Stewart himself also gives an Oscar caliber supporting performance. Stewart has been an under-rewarded stalwart of the acting community for decades and this may well be his finest performance. Alzheimer’s has been performed effectively many ways, but here we have one of the definitive portrayals.

As the Hollywood landscape focuses in with careless abandon on regurgitating popular themes and providing quick pieces of pulp entertainment without the requisite thematic underpinnings, films like Logan and Mad Max: Fury Road are showing that genre films have the ability to delve into the deep, dark realms of civilization and its ills. They are able to explore with modestly detached, but no less potent, concepts in ways that many blockbusters seem afraid to tackle. Logan may represent the culmination of sixteen years of Fox comic book adventures for one characters, but it exemplifies the heights and depths cinema has to offer: an intense, exciting adventure underlined by brutal facts about life, death, and humanity.

Oscar Prospects

Potentials: Actor (Hugh Jackman), Supporting Actor (Patrick Stewart), Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects
Unlikelies: Picture, Adapted Screenplay

Review Written

May 24, 2017

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