Film Review: Logan
Hugh Jackman gets a final outing as Wolverine in the tenth movie, and third stand-alone Wolverine movie, in the
X-Men film franchise, which features a superb cast as well as heart-wrenching character-driven moments and (literal) gut-wrenching action sequences.
In a near future in which most mutants have been wiped out Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), a mutant and former member of the X-Men who has the ability to heal himself, has become a limousine driver working ad-hoc jobs on the US side of the Mexican border so he can earn enough to help to care for Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart). Xavier, an educator and mutant himself who discovered, protected, and nurtured young mutants in his earlier days, is now, at 90 years old, being housed at an off-the-grid location in Mexico as he is suffering from health problems that become debilitating if he doesn't regularly consume illegal drugs that Logan has to acquire and then routinely smuggle across the border. While Logan is away Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a mutant who can sense and track other mutants, cares for Xavier, who cannot be left alone for extended periods of time.
Logan, in turn, is suffering from initially unspecified ill health that he's "managing" through various addictions and distractions. His body feels weaker. He doesn't heal as fast. He's ground down and stuck in a hopeless situation. His only purpose is to assist Xavier and it's becoming more than he can bear.
Through a confluence of events Logan ends up becoming responsible for helping a young girl (Dafne Keen) reach North Dakota and a place of safety called "Eden". Of course, it all seems dubious, but with an enforcement team from a shadowy research facility suddenly hot on their heels he has no choice but to try to protect his friends and fulfil his obligation to complete the job.
Because it's a character-driven piece Logan is brutal, both physically and psychologically. In the fight sequences the adamantium blades leave nothing to the imagination and a combination of great camera techniques and audio work during the scenes in which Xavier uses his powers results in the film-makers bringing the audience along via a tangible, visceral experience that will have you gripping your seat. Emotionally we're dealing with two men who are broken and dying, both mentally and physically, and few actors could have pulled off the fantastic portrayals as well as Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart.
My only complaint is the mismatched production design, which is very contemporary. While it's lovely and would be perfect for a story set anywhere between 2005 and 2017 this one's set in 2029. Technology will have moved on. Cars will have advanced. It may not be in your face but there will be changes - and they should be infused in the movie as subtleties in the background. Instead all we are offered is the robotic hand of Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), the enforcement team's leader, and a slightly more sophisticated navigation and ID system in the limousine. The phones are contemporary. The CCTV is contemporary. Signage is contemporary.
Perhaps the intention was to give the movie a sense of timelessness, which actually works quite well with the human-centred storytelling, rural backdrops, and road-trip sensibility, but I found that it kept forcing me to have to suspend my disbelief because the film doesn't adequately build a world is this regard in which secondary belief
The cinematography is great and the locations are given a chance to be admired for their beauty, while more emotionally infused scenes are shot with interesting camera angles that add dramatic weight. The editing is also respectful. Action scenes are fast paced but easy to follow, unlike the choppy mess that was Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
, and the slower scenes are allowed to linger to enable contemplation - of mortality, of duty, of impermanence, of the consequences of taking a life. (Having said that, 15 minutes could have been shaved off this movie with little effect to the whole but I didn't sit in the screening feeling that my time was being wasted.) The wonderful score, by Marco Beltrami, effortlessly matches the tone needed, whether it's a fast-paced action sequence or a moving moment of introspection.
Additionally, none of the actors' portrayals can be faulted, including those of the children, who can become a hit-and-miss casting selection in the wrong hands. There are a number of actors who have very small support roles that are crucial for enriching the story and their work demonstrates the seriousness with which they take their involvement. (It's also a testament to the skill of the director and co-writer, James Mangold.) The only role that is a bit stereotypical and underdeveloped is that of the head scientist (Richard E Grant) from the research facility but Grant manages to play him without the maniacal, over-the-top ridiculousness commonly found in the portrayals.
It has been stated repeatedly that Logan will be Hugh Jackman's last outing as Wolverine, a character he has been playing for 17 years, although there have also been more recent hints that perhaps he might wind up in small cameos in other projects, so you never can tell. Patrick Stewart had been intending to continue portraying Charles Xavier if required but after completion of this movie he decided it's time to retire his involvement in the X-Men
series because he felt that this movie was a perfect way to end his run (which tends not to be noted but is also 17 years).
The film-making team certainly produced something that feels like a eulogy that acknowledges both Wolverine's (and Xavier's) greatness and fragility within a pace that offers respect for both. It is a surprise to find this within a "superhero movie" and really helps to elevate this to just being "a movie" - a dramatic piece - with a superhero theme and action sequences. It's exceptional filmmaking.
franchise has redeemed itself with this film, which is especially heartening after the abomination that was X-Men: Apocalypse
. This is the kind of superhero movie I want to see - one with substance and purpose; one that tells a story about people. Over-the-top action sequences and glib one liners (nevermind, God forbid, the excruciating trope of sky swirlies over the villain's centre of power) are no longer going to cut it.
Logan was written by James Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green, is directed by James Mangold, and stars Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Elizabeth Rodriguez, and Richard E Grant.
The press screening was courtesy of Times Media Films.