There is no movie I’m rooting for more this summer than Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheiner’s “Swiss Army Man.” The filmmaking duo, who go by the moniker Daniels, won the Directing Award at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival in January for their highly original and unconventional drama. That is, of course, after some rather unflattering reports surfaced after the film’s world premiere. Irresponsible reports that could have scuttled what might be one of the best films of the year.
“Swiss Army Man” begins with Hank (Paul Dano) about to hang himself after being marooned on a deserted island for an unspecified amount of time. Just before he’s about to jump he spots a body wash ashore We’ll later learn this seemingly deceased man’s name is Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) and he becomes something of a human Swiss army knife in Hank’s efforts to get back to civilization. The movie’s narrative can be interpreted a number of ways, but the Daniels’ creativity in exploring his journey is often dazzling and moving. Even if the the Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze’s influences are obvious (it also doesn’t hurt that Radcliffe and Dano deliver two of the best performances of their careers).
Unfortunately, the movie earned an early byline as the “corpse farting movie” (sadly out of context) and walkouts were reported by outlets who clearly had not spent enough time in Park City (or were just fishing for click bait stories). The one thing you have to remember about Sundance is that most movies that premiere there want as little revealed beforehand because the element of surprise can often win audiences over. “Swiss Army” is a case study for doing the exact opposite. If the producers and the Daniels had released a teaser which explained the film a bit more without spoiling the third act the reaction from those sitting in the Eccles theater would have been slightly more euphoric than it was (people simply didn’t know what they were getting into). Oh, and those walkouts? Most of them were distribution execs who decided the movie wasn’t for them and that happens in Park City throughout the entire festival.
Despite some strong reviews (including this pundit), the early negative buzz started to turn around for “Swiss Army “after its formal press screening and additional public screenings throughout the week. By the time the festival awards were announced it wasn’t that much of a surprise that it took the Directing honor. The best news, however, was that A24 picked it up for release. The studio behind “Room,” “Under the Skin,” “The Witch,” “Ex Machina” and “Spring Breakers” knows a little something about bringing unconventional films to mainstream moviegoers.
Now, A24 has finally released the first official trailer for “Swiss Army Man” which you can watch embedded below. Does it completely explain the film’s unique storyline? Not really, but it doesn’t have to. The Daniels’ infectious energy and imagination should be enough to get you on board. At least it better be.
“Swiss Army Man” opens in limited release on June 17.
What did you think of the trailer? Tweet me your reaction at @TheGregoryE