Logan (2017, USA, d. James Mangold, 137 minutes)
Since last years smash success Deadpool broke new ground for R-rated Superhero films, it was only fitting to see Hugh Jackman’s final portrayal as Wolverine go out on similar ground, with an R rating.
Logan finds our titular character in the year 2029, where Mutants are now almost all extinct. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is now an isolated, boozy and broken man who wastes away as a limo driver in Texas. He uses what little money he has to care for an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) who is stricken with dementia and dangerous seizures. When Logan is forced with the task of caring for a young girl with similar abilities as him (newcomer Daphne Keen), he is thrown back into action to protect the young girl from dark forces and must confront his own inner demons in the process.
Right off the bat, you’ve never seen a Superhero film like this! I actually hesitate to call this a “superhero film” because there’s nothing heroic about this version of Logan. He’s selfish, he’s boozy, he’s depressed, the only thing he looks forward to anymore is buying a boat so he and the Professor can set sail till their dying day. The world that exits in this film is incredibly bleak and hopeless. There is a sense of melancholy throughout the film that I haven’t seen so strong since the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”. You almost expect Johnny Cash to start playing every couple of minutes. We first find Logan waking up in the back seat of his limo, hungover, and eventually learn that he keeps an adamantium bullet with him, should his depression come to that point. These are things that set up the tone and the world, making the audience aware that this is an R-rated film not just for its brutal violence and strong language, but for how mature it is.
As his swan song, one should expect Hugh Jackman to give another stellar performance. but you’re not prepared for how much he truly delivers. This might be Jackman’s best performance to date. That’s not hyperbole, he shows off the most range, vulnerability and depth this character has ever seen. We see him a broken man. He’s boozy, old and battered. His claws don’t extend all the way out, his healing powers are extremely weak. And it’s Jackman who sells us on the pain this character is going through.
Patrick Stewart is equally bold in his supposed final appearance as Charles Xavier. It’s actually hard to watch Stewart throughout this film, not only because we’re witnessing a beloved character in film become so frail, but because Stewart is just too good at portraying a sickly Professor. He and Jackman are simply heart-breaking, leading to several devastating moments that’ll have you in tears.
Newcomer Dafne Keen shines as Laura AKA X-23. Keen brings a fierceness to the character while also showcasing her soft, childish qualities. The mix of both sides make her that much more compelling to watch. Boyd Holbrook also makes for a memorable villain as henchman Donald Pierce. Holbrook has shown himself to be a chameleon-like character actor, disappearing into every role. His character isn’t the most layered villain, but Holbrook’s swagger and menace still makes Pierce an imposing foe.
Director James Mangold approached this film as a Western and what a breath of fresh air that decision was! Logan plays like a modern western, even going as far as having a scene between our main characters in a hotel room watching the 1953 George Stevens classic Shane. The intimacy and lived-in nature of the film really helps bring you in and allows you to really get sucked in to the setting. The cinematography by John Mathieson punches up the Texas/Mexico heat to where you can feel the sun’s heat leap off the screen. Logan is more in common with Hell or High Water than The Avengers.
The action, while aggressively brutal, is never gratuitous and always serves a purpose. Whenever Logan brings out his claws, it always serves the story and isn’t just for show. Director Mangold emphasizes the brutal nature of what Logan and X-23 are capable of, but never glorifies it. We’re always aware that this isn’t a life they want, but are stuck with it and must use their abilities in order to achieve the life they desire.
The only things that prevent this film from achieving the highest level of greatness are things the Marvel brand has suffered from in the past. The villains, while imposing and entertaining, don’t serve as anything more than a macguffin in the larger scheme of things. And some other small nitpicks that I can’t reveal here without giving away major spoilers.
With a few shortcomings aside, Director James Mangold crafts a film that is aggressively brutal, gritty and haunting while also managing to be thoughtful and nuanced in its execution. Hugh Jackman goes out with a bang, delivering his best performance to date as well as Patrick Stewart who brings the heart and soul of the film to life with a devastating performance. Logan is as creative, emotionally satisfying and subversive as anything in the Superhero genre!