REVIEW: Logan (2017)

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant

Running time: 137 minutes

3-stars

As the adamantium claws retract for the final time and the mutton chops make one last appearance, Jackman’s curtain call as the iconic Wolverine rips tradition to shreds, giving us a film that is substantially more adult and a fitting conclusion to a 17-year cinematic reign.

The year is 2029, and with mutants on the edge of extinction, Logan follows a visibly ageing Wolverine (Jackman) now residing at an abandoned smelting plant on the Mexican border; spending his days chauffeuring the wealthy while caring for the now neurodegenerative Professor Charles Xavier (Stewart). But trouble soon finds its way back to the former X-man when he is tasked with transporting a mysterious young refugee named Laura (Keen) across the Canadian border; someone who a group of government supervillains have an unhealthy interest in.

After a seven film build up, Logan is finally the Wolverine film we deserve.

While it may feel like a long time coming, Mangold’s Neo-Western gives the Marvel favourite a Nolan-esc gritty makeover, where we get a true glimpse of the uncaged beast in all his bloody and f-wording glory. As far from a children’s film as they come, this is certainly a bold move by Mangold in a writing and directorial combo, where Logan becomes a grown-up film in more ways than one.

As a hybrid of No Country for Old Men’s Sherriff Bell and The Wrestler’s Randy “The Ram” Robinson, Jackman’s leather skinned, bar-frequenting protagonist is more ageing Rockstar than retired superhero, where it appears that old age may be Wolverine’s toughest adversary yet: he is not as slick as he once was and his failing skeletal capabilities mean wounds heal much more slowly and blood and scars begin to stain his withered skin. And beneath the gruff demeanour and cold, metal structure, there is a tired shadow of a man who, if given the chance, would use his claws only to cut ties with his former self.  Aptly entitled, Logan is a film far more concerned with the man than it is with the mutant.  And Jackman, bringing his usual blend of protagonist power, prowess and underlying frailty, along with Mangold’s patient eye for narrative that is often so atypical in the Superhero genre, brilliantly adds a deeper, more emotionally rich, and altogether more human layer to Wolverine’s adamantium interior.

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That is not to say that we are spared in the department of roaring, vein-popping episodes of primitive rage that Wolverine is significantly more synonymous for, however. Mangold certainly doesn’t hold back, taking full advantage of the film’s 15 certificate with lengthy sequences of explicit bloodshed. Often violent to the point of being laughable, Mangold’s incessant need to remind us of just what Wolverine’s claws are truly capable of brings an almost Tarantino sensibility towards violence that, somewhat ironically, feels a little too comic book. Structurally, the film loses its way during its middle third when it appears to stagger clumsily and needlessly from one action set-piece to the next. The villains, in particular Richard E. Grant’s Zander Rice, are criminally underdeveloped and frustratingly one-dimensional.

But this is an altogether more clever and more powerful narrative than the two stand-alone Wolverine outings that have come before. And amidst such over-the-top, relentless violence, Logan also brings a more unexpected intimacy and emotional drive; and it’s during these quieter moments that the film adopts real fluidity and truly stakes its claim as the finest Wolverine (and possibly X-Men) film of them all. Just like the movement from desolate deserts and abandoned factories to the dense green forested mountains, this is a film that takes us to pastures new: a coming together of homage and originality; a unity of young and old.

It may be half an hour too long, contain mid-film revelations that fall flat, and all too obvious parallels to George Stevens’ classic western, Shane, but Mangold’s film is dusted with moments of true beauty, sentiment and class that gives Jackman’s final outing a real timeliness, poignancy and political relevance from something that, in lesser hands, could so easily have been a farewell filled only with loud bangs and explosions.

A shift in both style and tone from what has come before, Mangold’s Logan is bold and bruising, while at the same time never forgetting where its roots lie. And, as final shots go, this one is as haunting and moving as they come.

 

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