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Logan - Review

Logan

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

IT’S not often that a film embedded in a franchise is allowed to break from its shackles to offer something genuinely different… which makes Logan, the final outing for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, even more remarkable.

But far from seeking to tie things up in a manner that would please the studio at the expense of the fans, James Mangold’s film opts for the opposite, thereby delivering a love letter to Wolverine’s followers who have stuck with the character through the highs and lows of both X-Men and stand-alone spin-off films.

Logan is a messy, violent, foul-mouthed finale that self-consciously eschews many of its superhero traits in favour of both classic American road movie genre troupes and – most obviously – Westerns. It’s emotionally complex, too, providing plenty of room for its core characters to exist and – most crucially – suffer. And it’s bleak as hell. But in an appropriate way.

Set sometime in the future, when there have been no new Mutants reported, the film picks up as Logan, aka Wolverine (a beat-up, emotionally down Jackman) is carving out a living as a limo driver near the Mexican border and caring for an ailing Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whose bouts of dementia, if uncontrolled by medicine, gives rise to brain seizures that cause telekinetic earthquakes all around him.

Living with them is a fellow mutant named Caliban (Stephen Merchant), another character attempting to atone for past sins. But their world is shattered by the arrival of Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen), a young girl who appears to have similar abilities to Wolverine (right down to his claws), who is being pursued by shadowy government figures led by the robotically armed Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).

With the possibility of a new generation of mutants a distinct possibility, Professor Xavier urges Logan to step up and protect Laura. But once they go on the run, the stakes become increasingly stacked against any of their survival.

If Mangold’s film lacks for a certain kind of originality given the way it pays homage to the type of films that inspired it (as well as the Old Man Logan comic book stories), it still deserves a lot of credit for bringing something different and – yes – original to the superhero franchise.

This is downbeat, adult stuff that’s shot through with complex moral conundrums, extreme but relevant violence and fitting character resolutions. As a result, it manages to exhilarate in spite of its melancholy elements, and is even capable of drawing several gasps as the plot takes a couple of unexpected turns.

What’s more, it delivers a finale that’s as punchy – but not over spectacular – as it is poignant.

Credit for this deserves to go to Jackman, who came up with the idea, and Mangold, who directs with raw, gritty panache.

Mangold, for his part, is no stranger to putting his own distinct spin on genre films, having previously excelled with the likes of Copland (in itself a Western throwback that exists within a corrupt cop genre) and 3:10 To Yuma, one of the more worthwhile Western remakes of modern times.

Logan

Here, he imbues Logan with elements of Shane as well as the likes of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (especially in its use of elegiac violence) and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven with a touch of the more contemporary likes of the Coen brothers’ No Country For Old Men. His film is all about the ways in which violence shapes lives and screws them up, with Jackman’s central character wearing the ‘sins’ of his past all over his scarred face and broken down body. This is a Wolverine unlike anything we’ve seen before. And it works well, allowing Jackman to revel in the opportunity to properly explore the torment and anger underpinning his character.

And by doing so, it also allows the characters around him to respond with plenty of shading too. Stewart is on particularly great form as Xavier, a similarly pale imitation of his former self, whose own torment and disability hasn’t quite suppressed his capacity for hope. The scenes between Jackman and Stewart are particularly affecting.

Merchant, not known for his dramatic chops, is also unexpectedly appealing as Caliban, with his own story arc well realised, while Keen is a revelation in the pivotal role of Laura, playing things almost feral at times, yet also exhibiting a desperation to be nurtured that’s been buried by her survivor’s instinct.

Holbrook’s central villain, meanwhile, is a suitably cocky foil for Logan and company, who provides a genuinely formidable opponent, complete with his own army of mercenaries.

The film isn’t without criticisms, of course. Some of the violence can be troublesome and will certainly disappoint those youngest Wolverine fans who won’t be able to see it, while as poignant as the climax becomes, the tonal shift is very quick and could have taken a little more time to develop over the course of the film.

But with so much to recommend it, including the suspicion that it could easily transcend genre to appeal to those who have never previously seen an X-Men film, Logan is a hugely successful labour of love that has to represent a tour-de-force for both Mangold and Jackman.

As a parting shot to a much beloved character, it’s a genuinely memorable conclusion that should not be missed.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 141mins
UK Release Date: March 1, 2017