Director: James Mangold Writers: James Mangold (story by), Scott Frank (screenplay) Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
Synopsis: “It’s 2029. Mutants are gone-or very nearly so. An isolated, despondent Logan is drinking his days away in a hideout on a remote stretch of the Mexican border, picking up petty cash as a driver for hire. His companions in exile are the outcast Caliban and an ailing Professor X, whose singular mind is plagued by worsening seizures. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy abruptly end when a mysterious woman appears with an urgent request–that Logan shepherd an extraordinary young girl to safety. Soon, the claws come out as Logan must face off against dark forces and a villain from his own past on a live-or-die mission, one that will set the time-worn warrior on a path toward fulfilling his destiny.” Rotten Tomatoes
James Mangold was not fucking around when he soundtracked the early trailer for Logan with Johnny Cash’s cover of ‘Hurt’. This film is is about pain, suffering, grit and guilt. A brilliantly drawn modern western; a road movie; a film about ageing, family and man vs myth… None of which I was expecting when I went in to see the latest in the X-Men movie franchise behemoth.
Mangold’s previous work on Cash biopic ‘Walk the Line’ and western ‘3.10 to Yuma’ are a better reference point to anyone wondering where Logan sits in terms of tone than any of the other X-Men films.
Setting out his stall early on, Mangold shows us Logan, passed out on the back seat of his car from drinking, having his rims stolen by a young gang of ‘chollos’ near the Mexican border. A reluctant Logan ends up mutilating and killing the young men after they shoot him, despite trying to de-escalate the situation. It’s a brutal opening sequence that sees a very different Wolverine to that of other X-Men outings. This Wolverine is plagued by arthritis, poor vision and above all, world-weariness. If this were a different type of movie he’d be uttering the staple line “I’m getting too old for this shit”.
However, Logan the film is far from obvious, with some beautifully drawn characters and elegant dialogue that allow actors to be able to portray some complex emotions with just a glance. This sees both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s best performances in any of the X-Men films, and perhaps even some of their best performances full stop as they are given some meaty material to work with.
Dafne Keen, as Laura, is a revelation. Her performance as the young mutant whose presence forces Logan’s dysfunctional family out of hiding is stunning. One minute she is feral and terrifying, but then with a glance she reminds you she is just a little girl, one who has been abused and damaged and is trying to make sense of the world.
A scene in which Professor X and Laura sit in a hotel room watching 1953 western Shane gives the audience an insight into Mangold’s intention for Logan the film. This is 100% western or road movie, stripping away the usual bluster and complexity of comic book films to concentrate on character and emotional development. On the TV screen a character says ” Joey, there’s no living with… with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand sticks. There’s no going back.” Every death in Logan matters. It is brutal, painful and has repercussions for all involved. Indeed it’s almost Hobbesian in it’s portrayal of life being ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’.
Logan is the graphic novel to the previous X-Men films’ comic books. A brutal and brilliant grown-up look at ageing, dementia, death and decay which happens to feature some characters from comic books, which unexpectedly left me an emotional wreck.
9 out of 10