Director: James Mangold
By Christopher Spencer
Directed and co-written by James Mangold, Logan stars Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephan Merchant, and introducing Dafne Keen. Logan is the final film for Hugh Jackman as the eponymous character, with Logan having to care for both a new mutant like him and the close-to-death Charles Xavier, on a cross-country journey that will push this last X-Man to his limits.
“One Last Time” ran the first promotional material for what just used to be known as Wolverine 3. Didn’t sound special. Then the poster and title were revealed. Logan. And then that Johnny Cash-scored trailer came. From that moment on, we knew that this film would try to be like nothing else that had come before. Forget about the disaster of X-Men Origins or the “pretty good” The Wolverine, Logan is great.
Logan is a truly great film. Not just a perfect depiction of the Wolverine character, never seen in this ultra-violent way before, Logan is a great piece of character-driven cinema, shocking in its themes and action, and heartbreaking at every moment.
Hugh Jackman gives not only his last performance as the claw-toting mutant, but his definitive best. What Jackman has been able to do in this role, having perfected nearly every part of the character over 17 years, is give light to the emotional and physical torture that Logan faces. It is beyond being a good man; he knows he isn’t. It’s beyond controlling the animal inside; that animal is running away. This is about Logan coming to terms with his creeping mortality, his body failing him after nearly 200 years, the sins of his past coming to inspire and haunt him, and dealing with being alone. “There is still time”, Xavier wishes for Logan, that he may do one more last good deed before the end. For two particular moments, Jackman is emotionally vulnerable like never before, and the result is the most perfect swan song that this actor could have given.
Patrick Stewart, in a surprise that has only come out a few days ago, is also playing his last ever performance as Charles Xavier/Professor X. Stewart has also being playing his X-Men character for 17 years, and has totally defined the role in that time, and just like Jackman, continues to give new light to Charles. Xavier is a very old man now, a teacher who has lost all his students, being cared for by his complete opposite, and struggling with the descent of his mind, his greatest power in the past. Stewart gives his greatest performance as Charles Xavier, still remaining that sweet, caring and hopeful man that the X-Men universe has been built around, but having more struggle and pain than ever because he cannot fight it. It is the pain of age, of losing that which made him strong. Stewart is a silver lining in the dark of this film, but Xavier cannot shine for too much longer.
There is a wonderful debut from Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23. I don’t know where director James Mangold found this actress, but she does her action and drama sequences with such astonishing maturity that she feels like a hardened femme-fatale at only 11-years-old. It is perfect casting for this character, and I hope to see both X-23 and Keen do great things in the future.
I enjoyed some supporting performances from Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant and Stephen Merchant. Some surprised me with their dramatic depth having made a career of comedy (Merchant), others embraced the comic-book nature of their characters to make for slimy, conniving, underdeveloped villains (Grant and Holbrook). The villainous characters are Logan’s weakest point, but the story is more about Logan than setting up potentially overshadowing antagonists.
While Logan is a dark story, filled with battle-hardened characters and washed-up landscapes, it has its lighter moments. The relationships between Logan, Xavier and Laura have such strong chemistry that it puts a smile on one’s face more than shedding tears.
A great director in this bleak of a story knows how to show happiness one minute, then cut it all down the very next second. Mangold shows a mastery of both gut-slicing, sweeping action sequences and the grittiness that this film deserves. Thanks to its mature rating (R for the US, MA15+ for Australia), James Mangold is given free reign to show whatever he wants and tell the story that he desires. What he shows and tells is an epic never-before-seen for the comic-book genre, soaked in Western movies, blood, whiskey, sweat, and tears. No wonder it says in the opening credits “A film by James Mangold”, not anything else.
The technical elements of Logan are strong, with dynamic cinematography from John Mathieson, great editing by Michael McCusker, and a decent score from Marco Beltrami. These enhance great story potential, and allow the emotion and darkness of everything to come out and feel totally real.
Logan is a superhero epic, with a passionate filmmaker telling his own cinematic vision, brutal action that never shies away, perfect supporting performances from Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen, and the best that Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine has ever been and ever will be. It is a film about believing in the power of comic-books, that these flimsy little things can create incredible stories and inspire a bright future for anyone. Logan is emotional perfection, a Western of modern times, and a visceral farewell.