I shall be inspecting the Swiss Army Man, reporting on its Private Parts and addressing its General Information to determine if it’s a Major Victory or just rank. So read on only if you’ve already seen Swiss Army Man, or don’t plan to.
Fair warning: This was my favourite film of 2016, and to paraphrase Ron Burgundy, “If you don’t think this film is the greatest film ever, I will fight you.”
0:01:22 During the opening credits, we are afforded views of flotsam and jetsam inscribed with SOS messages. Sort of a message on a bottle.
0:01:44 Stranded on a deserted isle, Hank (Paul Dano) prepares to end his waiting at the end of a rope. Just as he’s about to step off the cooler, however, he spots a limp body (Daniel Radcliffe as Manny) washed up on the beach of his tiny islet. He’s dying to meet the bloke, and nearly does until the rope snaps.
0:03:36 While determining whether the drowned man is dead or alive, gas escapes the body in what sounds very much like a fart. Interesting side note, another word for “Fart” in the U.K. is “Trump”. Look it up.
0:08:30 Hank realises that Manny is expelling so much wind, that the corpse could be used as a flotation device to leave the tiny island. #watercrafty
Swiss Army Man use #1: Jet ski
0:09:44 After a nasty spill, Hank awakens on another, far larger beach, beside a bag of cheese puffs. This is where the film gets…cheesy.
0:11:28 Hank switches on his mobile (carried in a plastic sandwich bag to keep dry) but cannot get a signal. He does, however, get a look at his lock screen, which is a photo of Mary Elizabeth Winstead (whom we saw in 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Thing). This does not give him a signal but it does give him a charge.
0:14:06 While looking for civilisation with Manny tied to him like a rucksack, Hank comes across the detritus of an abandoned campsite, complete with an old Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and a champagne cork. One is for letting things out, the other for keeping it in.
Man, it’s always the songs that you hate that get stuck in your head.
Hank traipsing through the forest with Manny, singing “Cotton-Eyed Joe”
[N.B. Co-director Daniel Kwan said in this interesting article that the song was chosen because it’s a terrible song that is elevated to something beautiful, which is the theme of the film.]
[N.B. A shout out to Daniel Radcliffe’s commitment to this role and his craft in general. A dummy of Manny was made because Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the directors, didn’t want to ask Harry Potter to lie about in the muck all day. Scheinert stated, “[Daniel] obviously had every right to not want to lie in the cold dirt for most of the day. But at the end he wanted to. He went, ‘If Paul’s going to be in the scene, I want to be in the scene.’” “It kind of set the tone for everyone,” said Kwan. “If Harry Potter is going to lie in the dirt for hours, I can’t say shit. Nothing I’m doing is worth complaining about. It was so much fun having him there in almost every scene. We only used the dummy when it looked like someone would die.” Source]
Crazy, I’m fucking crazy
Maybe just maybe, I’ll make it alone
Rescued, I thought I was rescued
But you’re just a dead dude, and I’m gonna die
Hank sings this to his dead friend when they’re huddled in a cave during a storm, because neither of them can sleep.
[N.B. This song is included on the playlist found at the bottom of the synopsis.]
0:19:02 After inadvertently knocking over his plastic cup of rainwater, Hank is ready to abandon Manny…until he discovers Manny has collected a great deal of rainwater himself. This proves that Manny is not just a drip.
Swiss Army Man use #2: Water fountain
0:20:34 Whilst trying to force more water from the cadaver, air wheezes through the corpse’s lungs, which sounds to Hank as though the chap is saying “Manny”. This is how Manny gets his name, and also when Hank begins to attribute the capacity to speak to the body. From here on out, the dead most definitely tell tales.
0:23:52 At this point, Hank collects the refuse left behind by previous campers and uses it to teach Manny about life. #trashy
Manny: How did you get so far away from home?
Hank: I – I ran away, but that’s – It doesn’t matter.
Except it totally does.
Hank [to Manny]: You’ve got something in there. You’re like the multi-purpose tool guy.
Hence the name of the film. Manny is like a Swiss army knife, though a man, so he’s a Swiss army man.
0:27:54 Hank reprimands Manny for calling him trash: broken, empty, and dirty and smelly and useless and old.
Hank: You can’t just say everything that comes into your head. That’s bad talking.
So is that.
0:29:26 Hank tries to teach Manny about sex by showing him photos in an old Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. 👙
Before the Internet, every girl was a lot more special.
0:31:03 Hank teaches Manny about fantasising by creating a fantasy life around Manny and the girl in the swimsuit photo, whom he dubs “Jessie”. His description of Manny’s life with Jessie (which is in reality, Hank’s own fantasy), gets a rise out of Manny.
0:33:02 Hank becomes convinced that Manny’s erection is like a divining rod, pointing the way home. That’s using your head!
Swiss Army Man use #3: Compass
0:35:28 Hank explains that when his father caught him masturbating, he said the act would shorten Hank’s lifespan. Hank began crying at this, so, in order to make him feel better, his mother said that if he masturbated enough, he could catch up to her age and they could die together. Since then, Hank can’t straighten the noodle without thinking of his mum, so he doesn’t do it much. But when he does, it’s the mother of all orgasms.
0:37:09 Manny says he’ll think of Hank’s mum when he masturbates so that Hank doesn’t feel weird about being different. This awkward gesture angers Hank and a dispute ensues.
Manny: Should I just go back to being dead?
Hank: Yes, you should. Die in a fire.
Dying in a fire is cold.
0:39:32 After Hank steps in deep shite, the two lads fall down a ravine whilst escaping the beast that made said shite. They’ve really hit bottom.
0:40:08 Manny falls in love with the photo of the girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Sarah) on Hank’s phone lock screen. WTF!? Manny believes Hank’s mobile is his for some strange reason. Probably the plot.
0:43:13 Because they can’t switch on the phone and drain the battery, Hank dresses up as Sarah to please Manny. Manny’s reaction demonstrates the dead have feelings.
0:44:40 Hoping that exciting Manny will somehow result in their finding help (and WTF!?), Hank uses Manny to build a bus interior, to replicate the photo of Sarah on what Manny mistakenly believes to be his mobile. Manny is quite a tool!
Swiss Army Man use #4: Scissors
Swiss Army Man use #5: Razor (by using Manny’s teeth)
Swiss Army Man use #6: Hammer – that’s using his head!
0:46:51 Manny, pretending to be listening to music on the bus, begins singing along with Cotton Eyed Joe [see 14:36]. Cadavers can’t sing because they’re tone death.
0:48:35 This exchange, while Hank recreates the bus rides where he worships Sarah from afar (and where Manny doesn’t realize he’s simply a stand-in for Hank’s melodrama), sums up brilliantly the entire subplot of “I’m too afraid to talk to her”. I know this because I’ve written an entire novel about this exact thing.
Manny: I want this to stop!
Hank: It’s not working?
Manny: No. She’s too beautiful. I can’t talk to her now. What if i say something stupid? I’ll just want to die.
Hank: She’s right there! You’re not going to do anything?
Manny: What would you do?
Hank: I would… I would probably wait, and watch her get off the bus and go home and eat a whole box of pizza by myself.
This works for me, as I love pizza more than most people.
0:51:27 Manny remembers the surname of the girl Hank is obsessed with, when Hank has never said it? How would Manny know? And, more importantly, WTF!? Or, perhaps Hank is attributing the information to Manny, much in the way a ventriloquist’s dummy echoes the puppeteer. I keep forgetting that Manny is dead, and that’s the film’s fault, not mine.
0:51:44 While loosening Manny’s grip on his hand, Hank discovers that by pulling the dead man’s thumb and forefinger apart and then letting go, the friction of their reconnecting creates sparks. Hank isn’t the only thing fired up. #popcorn
Swiss Army Man use #7: Lighter
0:52:02 Hank makes popcorn with the fire and produces shadow theatre of classic movies when he (as Sarah) and Manny are on a date. Judging from Manny’s condition, the films are to die for.
0:52:22 Manny, the dead bloke, chokes on popcorn and I call WTF!? because the dead don’t breathe. When Hank squeezes Manny to clear the popcorn, the object shoots out like a bullet. Manny has been fired.
Swiss Army Man use #8: Gun
0:52:45 Manny shoots a handmade grappling hook which allows the duo to climb out of the chasm they were trapped in. It also kicks off a song which goes something like this:
Now we killed a raccoon
We are using your body
Like it’s a machine gun
Now we are shooting some fish
Our friendship is blossoming
Let’s eat the stuff we killed
Now we started a fire
I have to admit
I’m enjoying your company
Are we falling in love?
All. We. Ever. Need. Is. A. Montaaaaaage!
0:53:08 As explained in the song, Hank is able to use Many as a machine gun by filling him with pellets and stones and squeezing. In the ensuing montage, the lads cook their catch in an ersatz restaurant with dancing, and Hank dressed as Sarah. Speaking of good catches…
0:53:38 Hank discovers he can dislocate Manny’s limbs in such a way they snap back like a karate chop. Manny is such an action figure.
Swiss Army Man use #9: Axe
0:54:02 Hank takes a shower by filling Manny with water, elevating him and then pulling on his arm to release a spray. It’s either kinky or disgusting, you choose!
Swiss Army Man use #10: Shower
1:00:02 Manny addresses the elephant in the room, which is disguised as Hank feeling uncomfortable because when he was drunk he felt a sexual attraction to his dead friend. Not only does Hank need to decide if he’s gay or not, he also must take a stance on necrophilia.
1:01:38 After the pair fall from the pipeline they were using to traverse the river, Hank decides not to abandon Manny and save himself, but instead swims deeper to rescue the cadaver. And at the bottom of the river, they kiss.
1:03:06 Once they hit bottom, Manny’s cork pops out and his gasses escape so strongly, the two men are launched to shore. Their relationship isn’t the only thing up in the air.
1:04:04 Hank confides that he and his father have grown apart with time and their main form of communication is automated birthday cards. They are such e-males.
1:06:32 While talking next to the campfire, the lads fantasise about living in the forest together, lost forever. Immediately after this agreement, Hank goes to urinate and realises he’s hit the open road…with his pee.
1:07:06 Hank tries his mobile once again and has a signal. It’s obvious from Sarah’s Instagram feed that her boyfriend is neither Hank nor Manny, meaning Manny may be a dreamer but Hank is just a stalker.
1:08:08 Hank comes clean on all the dirt.
…this is my phone, Manny, not yours. And Sarah is a girl I saw on the bus every day, but I never had the courage to even talk to her. I didn’t think someone like her would ever wanna be with me. I didn’t even wanna be with me.
1:08:57 A bear approaches the camp! Hank loads up Manny as a machine gun, but Manny sees Sarah’s Instagram post with another man and can no longer shoot. #PerformanceAnxiety
1:10:12 After the bear bites Hank’s ankle, he lights Manny’s fart so that the two might lift off and land a safe distance away. After crashing through tree branches, they are let down.
1:11:24 Yes, so this is a major theme of the film distilled into one pithy statement.
If my best friend keeps his farts from me, what else is he hiding from me?
1:13:41 While the bear is dragging Hank away…
Manny: Like maybe your brain invented me to distract you from the fact that eventually your eyes are gonna stop blinking and your mouth will stop chewing and your blood will stop pumping…and then you’re gonna shit yourself. And that’s it.
Hank: No. No, that’s not it. Because then my organs are gonna shit themselves.
Manny: And then your cells will shit themselves, and then all your shit’s gonna get mixed in with everyone else’s shit ‘til there’s nothing left of you, and then that’s it.
Hank: I don’t know, man. That sounds kinda nice, everyone’s shit mixing, because then someday some of your shit is gonna meet up with some of my shit, and we’ll have something to look forward to, you know?
This exchange also sums up the theme in a nice little brown package.
1:16:17 Manny comes back to real life enough to fall from the tree and light himself on fire to chase the bear away. Turns out Daniel Radcliffe is a flamer.
1:17:42 Manny carries Hank to civilisation, which also happens to be Sarah’s back garden. Manny’s gaining after death experience.
1:18:41 Hank and Manny meet Sarah’s little girl, Crissie (Antonia Ribero).
1:21:28 Manny weirds Sarah out when she comes to look after her daughter, so when she takes Crissie inside and calls for help, Manny decides to drop dead. For real, this time.
1:22:26 The EMTs arrive to take care of Hank and examine Manny, who they decide is probably a “bridge jumper” due to the discoloration on his abdomen. Manny and Hank have so much in common.
1:24:07 The investigating police assume the mobile was Manny’s, so they phone the number of who they believe is Manny’s father (Richard Gross) to come and identify the body. Once on site, the father doesn’t want to see the body, not knowing the phone was Hank’s, and that Hank is alive. Hank decides to hide from his father for the moment, meaning he’s mum to his dad.
1:25:48 During an interview with the local news, Hank confesses he’s not Manny. Sarah uncomfortably realises Hank had many pictures of her on his phone. Then, his father espies him and tells him to leave Manny (who’s on a stretcher in a body bag) alone, because what would Hank’s mother think? Sometimes you wish you were dead, and your best friend beats you to it.
1:26:51 Hank makes like a 1970s sci-fi horror film and snatches the body. He takes it to the river and floats it to the sea while everyone chases him like beer after a shot of whiskey.
1:27:16 The group stumble upon the camp, and all of the secrets the two men shared. Sarah realises they were dressing up as her, so it truly was a camp sight. [Stay with that one until you get it.]
1:29:14 Hank passes wind in front of Manny [see 1:11:24] and the police officer behind him promotes my website!
1:31:09 Manny comes back to the living dead to become a gas powered boat once again.
- WTF!?’s: 4 Major ones
- When to Follow: This is a film for those days you wish you were dead.
- Where’s This Found: As stated at the top of this synopsis, Swiss Army Man was my favourite film of 2016. I find the balance of humour and poetry mixed with the off-beat premise have made this film unique in all the right places. Watch this film with someone who knows you very well…and loves you anyway. Out of a possible 10, I have 9 F’s to give
- What To Feedback: In addition to listing the films referenced in the collage [see 52:02], here’s a poll for you:
Left Over WTF (Way Too Funny) Photos
Left over photos
Prints suitable for reposting!
WTF!? did they say?
WTF!? do you meme?
What to Follow Up
Bar None Review
Fernby Films Review
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