VOD film review: Logan
Ivan Radford | On 10, Jul 2017
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
Watch Logan online in the UK: All 4 / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
“There’s no living with a killing. There’s no going back from it. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand that sticks.” That’s Shane, speaking on a TV in the background of Logan. It’s a ballsy thing to do, call out a cinematic classic in the middle of a comic book movie, but Logan isn’t your average comic book movie – just as Logan, like Shane, is no superhero.
A man who has been killing for hundreds of years, Logan has never had a choice but to live with it. Now, all that living has caught up with him: he’s visibly ageing for the first time, slowly losing his powers, as he inches closer to his end (an unnamed poison is coursing through his innards; it might as well be called a conscience). Hugh Jackman, who has been playing Wolverine for a remarkable (and unlikely to be beaten) 17 years, brings every minute of that decade and a half to the screen; this is Logan as we’ve not seen him before, weighed down by the sheer effort of it all. Logan may regenerate and heal, but after doing it over and over, he’s tired.
Jackman’s weary, craggy face – almost alien to his usually immaculate complexion – is more perfect for the part than ever, fitting into a gruffer, darker, meaner tone that sets Logan apart from the pack. Even his previous two solo outings can’t compete with this 15-rated thriller, a stripped-down drama of redemption and revenge with its roots in Westerns and shootouts, rather than mutants and yellow spandex. At one point, Wolverine picks up an X-Men comic book with a sneer, implying that all the escapades we already know him for have been invented exaggerations of the truth; primary-coloured stories of heroism for kids in a monochrome world of lonely selfishness.
But there’s humanity on display too, as we learn that Logan is secretly looking after a sickly Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart, also acting his age with gravitas). Hiding in a barn out in the desert, he’s helped by an unrecognisable Stephen Merchant as Caliban, a sidekick with a name that conjures up all the philosophical portent and themes of nature/nurture that fuse the X-Men mythology with something deeper and more melancholic. (Trying to place this in the chronology of the X-franchise is almost pointless: this is after everything else. After the silly costumes. After compassion. What else is there to know?)
The trio’s quiet existence is interrupted by the arrival of Laura (a fantastic Dafne Keen), a young mutant whose powers are alarmingly recognisable for these X-vets. Those abilities also have the attention of sinister scientific and military forces (played with relish by Boyd Holbrook and Richard E. Grant). Before you can start ticking off cliches, though, Logan veers determinedly into brutally unique territory, combining the sci-fi tropes you might expect with everything from a meditation on parenthood to the political thrill of watching refugees flee for the border.
James Mangold (who gave us that cracking remake of 3:10 to Yuma) shoots the whole thing with a grittiness bordering on black-and-white (there is, indeed, a Logan Noir cut available – not the only thing about the film that recalls Mad Max: Fury Road), and the stark compositions only emphasise the violence Logan unleashes on the world. Angry and in his dying throes, he’s more beast than man, erupting into percussive bouts of knife-wielding blows – blows that punctuate people’s faces as much as they do the plot. His harshest punches feel more like a battle with himself than with anyone else; an existential tussle less of life and death, and more of whether or not to continue not dying. Accompanied, at times, by jangling piano on the soundtrack, the set pieces have all the physicality of silent cinema, but none of the whimsy. (And none of the silence; sequences in which the deteriorating Professor X experiences seizures are ear-splittingly well designed.)
The result feels like something breathtakingly new in a genre that has grown to become frequently tired and familiar. As universes are built and trilogy-spanning arcs are maintained, Logan pulls its own down with a vengeance. This is a raging howl of originality and moving emotion that deserves to be heard, even by those now bored of comic book blockbusters, a brief glimpse of a mutant who, perhaps for the first time, feels genuinely dangerous. Forget those big, CG-filled comic book movies, Logan tells us: this is what they can be. Here’s hoping the brand sticks. After 17 years, this is what a hero would look like in real life. Even for invincible men, there’s no living with a killing.
Logan is available on All 4 until 16th March 2020.