Logan is Heartbreakingly Perfect [Review]
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Based on Wolverine by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, John Romita, Sr.
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen
Running time 135 minutes
Rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity.
The year is 2029, mutants have been all but hunted to extinction but a now ageing and ailing Logan (Hugh Jackman) has survived in hiding working as a limousine driver for hire. Logan is also keeping Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) safe and hidden, as his health is failing and his degenerative brain disease becomes increasingly dangerous. With the help of the mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant) Professor X and Logan are keeping themselves hidden across the Mexican border until they have enough money to buy a boat to live their remaining days on the open ocean. However, these retirement plans will need to wait when a young mutant Laura/X-23 (Dafne Keen) who was rescued from the labs of Transigen shows up, desperate to make it to Eden across the Canadian border.
Logan is the Wolverine film that tops all other films in the X-Men franchise in every possible way; I would even count this among the best super-hero films of all time. The performances were rock solid, the direction was tight and focused, and the script build a sense of urgency in the characters that made the stakes feel real. Beginning with super powered characters brought low by time and failing bodies, pursued by persistent and dangerous villains, and finishing with an emotional adamantium claw punch to the gut. This film had nearly every member of the press corps in the theatre in tears, many of us at a loss for words, temporarily.
In order to breath in this film appropriately I’ve had to think of it from multiple facets. The first being as a comic book super hero film, specifically within the context of the franchise to which Logan belongs. In this context, Logan succeeds tremendously on one level, and unfortunately falls short on another. Where it falls short is contextually speaking it is out of place with its predecessors, it is dark and gritty, conveying raw emotion in every frame. All other X-Men films were at the core lighthearted fare meant to be exciting, if they were successful is another subject entirely. Or to put it another way, it simply does not fit in with the franchise. Where it succeeded was creating a dark and gritty emotionally fueled story that needs no support from the franchise, and stands alone in its excellence. Or, put another way, it is strong and better when taken alone rather than as part of the set.
Another perspective I have been considering places this film with great westerns like Unforgiven, and Shane—which they used to great effect in Logan—even Once Upon a in the West, and Tombstone. I’m surprised how well Logan fits in my mind with these films. Even if they had not used Shane the way they did, I would have likely draw comparisons based on the look and feel alone. Much of the cinematography was strikingly similar to the style used for Old West films, it was a perfect fit.
Finally, I had to look at Logan like a redemption film like Léon: The Professional, or as previously referenced, Unforgiven. The redemption in this case is not for Logan but also for Charles Xavier, who in this timeline has done some unspeakable things for a greater good. The question of whether than earned that redemption in the end is a matter for each viewer to decide. There are quite a few things for each individual viewer to decide when the final credit roll, one of those things will be how to cope with feelings Logan will leave behind.