“Nature made me a Freak. Man made me a Weapon. And God made it last too long” – Logan (Film Review)

Nine. That’s how old I was when Hugh Jackman first portrayed Wolverine on screen in X-Men, alongside Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. X-Men was a gamechanger, proving that comic book adaptations could be successful at the box office. We now live in the Golden age of the Superhero movie, where roles can often be recast without a second glance. Spiderman had not yet been adapted for the big screen when X-Men first came out. Now, upon Logan’s release, we have seen three different actors take that role. As well as two actors playing Batman and Superman since the turn of the millennia. But there is only one Wolverine.

The year is 2029. Mutants have vanished from the world and only a few remain hiding in secluded areas. Logan, no longer going by the moniker of Wolverine, works as a driver for hire. His healing ability is failing and he self-medicates with drugs and alcohol to make it through the day. Charles Xavier is succumbing to mental degeneration and has spasms and seizures causing tremors and paralysis to those nearby. Logan hopes to save enough money to get himself and Charles a boat, so they can live on the ocean and escape their bleak existence. One day a woman, Gabriella, approaches Logan begging for him to help her and her daughter, Laura. They are being chased and wish to reach the Canadian border. Logan wants no part in helping them but is forced into assisting. However, is there anything of the old Wolverine left?

Wolverine has been somewhat domesticated by the X-Men series. Sure, he’s always been the most morally conflicted of the group, being the quickest to violence and dropping the occasional F bomb, but his darker morality had never been explored until now. In Logan we get to see the true repercussions of his violent acts. In the opening scene we watch Logan tear a group of would be thieves to shreds in a fit of rage. Limbs are separated from bodies and blood spurts without restraint from wounds. Logan himself is badly injured, his signature claws causing him agony. In the past Wolverines claws slashed without real consequence. He’d wave his arm and his opponents would fall but there would be no weight to the action. In Logan not only is the violence unabashedly graphic, but it feels gritty and dirty. Mortality plays a major theme throughout, from the main character himself and into that of Patrick Stewart’s Xavier. A man of immense power, grace and intellect reduced to a shell of his former self. Broken down by illness he is a more bitter and confused man than we once remembered. Perhaps the most galling change of all is the utter lack of sentimentality within Logan. It’s one thing to aim for a more realistic tone but the movie feels almost devoid of hope and optimism. Disappointment, regret and destitution haunt the landscape throughout. We are a far cry away from the time travelling exploits of Days of Future Past. Logan sometimes teases us with the concepts of absolution and hope only to pull the rug from under us. Jackman delivers entirely in a role that he will forever be linked with, for better or worse. His physicality completely manifest of the old animal teetering on the brink. More fragile than before, but perhaps deadlier than ever for it. Stewart is revelatory as Xavier, a man grappling with the weight of almost infinite power beginning to lose control of his gifts. Tied to Logan as both burden and mentor, the two men’s bickering disguising a peculiar familiar bond. The ensemble as a whole is remarkably solid. Stephen Merchant as the troubled Caliban, Boyd Holdbrook as southern mercenary Donald Pierce and Dafne Keen as Laura, a very talented young performer who delivers an admirably astute performance.

The curtain has now fallen on Jackman’s time as Wolverine and frankly Logan is a jarring experience. Logan is unrecognisable from the earlier X-Men films, a different animal entirely, but is all the better for it. There is no Stan Lee cameo, no post credits sequence and no scenes setting up future movies for a franchise. Just a story about family, death and pain. One well worthy to go out on for the Wolverine.

5/5

Dir: James Mangold

Scr: James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal

Prd: Hutch Parker, Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner

DOP: John Mathieson

Music: Marco Beltrami

Country: USA

Year: 2017

Runtime: 137 Minutes

Logan is out now in UK cinemas.

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The Hateful Eight – Review (No Spoilers)

The Hateful Eight – Review

The Hateful Eight, the eighth film by Quentin Tarantino (If like Tarantino you count Kill Bill as a single piece) and the second foray into the western genre for the acclaimed filmmaker following the critical and commercial successes of Django Unchained.

The film takes place in an intentionally vague amount of time not too long after the American civil war where a stagecoach carrying bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell, and his fantastic moustache), and his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) come across a stranded U.S Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson). Warren manages to secure passage with the pair to the stagecoach lodge ‘Minnie’s Haberdashery’ where a group of other various travellers have already sought refuge from an incoming blizzard. However not everyone may be as they seem.

The Hateful Eight is blessed with stunning cinematography, with much having being made of the film being shot on 70mm film. Ralph Richardson makes the landscapes ooze off the screen and the intimate setting of the haberdashery becomes a grandiose atmospheric stage for our performers. Coupled with Ennio Morricone’s harrowingly stirring score, the end result is one of true cinematic beauty as the claustrophobic setting creates a powerfully unerring tension amongst the characters that echoes into the cinema itself. The aesthetic is the films greatest strength. However the films narrative is not as tight as its visuals. The slow build to Minnie’s haberdashery does not create enough interest through either dialogue (Tarantino’s heralded specialty) or character development. The narrative structure combined with some inconsistency in Tarantino’s usually infallible dialogue creates a somewhat uneven quality to the film. The inclusion of a somewhat indulgent and unnecessary narration sequence (voiced by Tarantino himself) was an unwelcome distraction and symptomatic of what the films main issue is. That it is too long and in need of a tighter cut version. Not to say the film doesn’t contain boisterous highlights at times, including a career reel monologue for Samuel L Jackson, who brings every inch of his incalculable charisma to the screen ably supported by Russell, Dern and Bichir in particular, amongst others. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Oscar nomination is something of a surprise as I found her somewhat exaggerated performance to be functional, without being phenomenal. This is not meant as a slight against such a wonderful actress and is more indicative of her function in the plot as a whole, and she is certainly not the only actor in the film to succumb to this issue.

Despite its shortcomings The Hateful Eight is a worthwhile watch for its incredible atmosphere, and despite its flaws it remains an engaging, if sometime frustrating, experience. With one of Jackson’s finest performances, a beautiful score by the legendary Morricone, and Kurt Russell’s phenomenally hypnotic facial hair. I hope you find a lot to like in Tarantino’s Hateful Eight.

Review by Alexander Halsall