Writers: James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Green, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook
Running time: 137mins
What’s the story: In a crumbling America of the future with most mutants gone, Logan (Jackman) ekes out a living as a limo driver. He also cares for an ailing Charles Xavier (Stewart) who he has stashed south of the border. Into Logan’s world comes mysterious 11-year-old girl Laura (Keen), fleeing various shadowy agencies and who Charles insists Logan must protect.
What’s the verdict: For Hugh Jackman’s final outing as adamantium-skeletoned, razor wielding grumpy boots Wolverine, the strapping Aussie has used all the luminosity of his star wattage to do it his f*cking way. He may not have producer or writer credit, but this is Jackman’s show and he sets out his stall from the first scene… hell, from the first word spoken.
And with the poster being a bold homage to key art for Schindler’s List, no surprise to report Logan the film is a more sombre affair than previous X-outings.
Sloughing off the city felling, planet threatening CGI noise of current superhero movies, Logan’s story is lean, muscular and close to the ground. Riffing on Eastwood’s Unforgiven and Alan Ladd in Shane (directly quoted here), it’s an elegiac reflection on a life defined by violence and rage now forced to confront other emotions.
Mark Millar’s comic Old Man Logan acts as a basic template, but the filmmakers draw more from Millar’s Kick-Ass comic, with Logan and Laura being Big Daddy and Hit Girl if they ever seriously fell out. Plus, in keeping with the Eastern-flavoured The Wolverine, classic Japanese manga Lone Wolf and Cub also makes its presence felt in this neo-Western.
Director Mangold and co whirl Mad Max: Fury Road and Children of Men into the ambitious script written before Donald J. Trump stormed the White House, but now appearing remarkably prescient in its view of where America is heading. In a world largely without mutants the Mexicans being indiscriminately rounded-up and exploited for first world expansion are now the reviled other.
As the watchman of a dying breed, Logan protects a seriously old Charles Xavier, assisted by sunlight avoiding Caliban (Merchant, playing a much more interesting version of the character than seen in X-Men: Apocalypse).
Into Logan’s world comes the young Laura (Keen), mute save for shrieks and yells and possessing powers familiar to the old beserker. And everyone wants the mad little miss, particularly Boyd Holbrook’s Pierce, a mercenary with the presumably coincidental first name of Donald, and Richard E. Grant’s cold-eyed Dr. Rice.
Wisely dispensing with the X-Men series’ bucket-of-spaghetti timelines, Logan is a chase movie with background detail sketching in society’s collapse and what happened to the rest of the team.
Mangold gives Logan the feel of an older film, replicating the look of 80s lenses and grainy film stock to deliver something far more visually arresting than Doctor Strange. He also paces it like a Peckinpah movie, allowing plenty of character beats in a well-deployed 137 minute running time.
But, for those nervous that this is all talk, no claw, fear not: Logan cuts it. The action doesn’t just happen, it is unleashed. And in this post-Deadpool era, it erupts with limb-chopping, claret gushing bravado, set to a soundtrack of f-bombs almost overindulged, but not quite.
When Logan and Laura smackdown side-by-side during the climactic showdown, exhilaration levels peak and it is difficult not to burst into applause. Take that Oscar winning Suicide Squad.
Jackman relishes tackling a broken version of his most famous role, and makes the transition from reluctant hero to actual hero an object lesson in playing a larger than life character. Stewart (who has also announced his retirement from the series) brings a broken dignity to the once most powerful X-person, plus needed comic relief.
And Dafne Keen as Laura… an unknown, she pummels the audience with a knockout debut. Largely mute, her anger and confusion are conveyed through body language, a piercing stare, and a nifty set of claws, the youngster impressively standing toe-to-toe with her seasoned co-stars.
The jump from the climactic optimism of The Wolverine to the dystopian vision here is jarring; we would have liked one more outing before this film.
But, as a farewell to a beloved character, it is (bloody) brilliant.
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