After their previous thrilling solo character outing The Wolverine, Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold collaborate again to exhilarating effect with LOGAN.
It’s rare nowadays for audiences to sit in a cinema watching the credits roll but it happened in my screening of LOGAN. With the advent of a sneak-peek of something new right at the end of the credits for The Avengers movies, it’s given people a reason to keep their seats. But I’m talking about when a movie really effects you and it takes a moment before you can walk out of the dark and continue your day. This was the experience of Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold’s film.
It wasn’t just to do with the kick-ass choice of hearing Johnny Cash, who’s so memorably scored the movie’s trailer with his ballad ‘Hurt‘, sing his cleverly fitting song ‘When A Man Comes Around‘ it was also having just witnessed the culmination of 17 years of an actor’s incredible journey with a role.
When Hugh Jackman first appeared to movie audiences in Bryan Singer’s still superb X-Men in 2000, everybody sat up and took notice. It was like watching a young Clint Eastwood stroll across our screens. Little did either of us realise that all this time later, he would have embodied the role of LOGAN in an incredible nine movies. I absolutely loved the previous solo outing for the character, the thrilling Japan-set actioner The Wolverine. This was also the start of his collaboration with the award-winning writer/director James Mangold.
What they’ve now achieved with LOGAN is something pretty special in the X-Men universe. They’ve said it’s their attempt to get as close to the spirit or intention of the character from the comics. Not being an avid comic book fan, I can’t attest to that but what I can say is that the film has a grittiness and a tragedy that is mesmerising to watch. Eastwood’s masterpiece Unforgiven has even been referenced by Jackman in the evolution of the film from idea to the screen and it’s certainly got that tone.
We find the Wolverine living near the Mexican border and looking after an increasingly fragile but also dangerous Charles Xavier. In Patrick Stewart’s terrific, wily and world-weary performance, they are a kind of odd couple – the roles of carer and parent now reversed.
Samuel Beckett comes to mind when you hear them bicker and struggle with their relationship. And the interior of the place where Charles is kept under lock and key was cleverly envisioned by Mangold and his designer Francois Auduouy with its holes of light in its dome, as it brought to my mind ‘Cerebro’ Professor X’s old mind palace. What’s also most noticeable is that Logan’s gruff exterior is his only defence against what’s happening to him physically – he limps, he coughs constantly and seems to be being eaten away from the insides. This is a very different mutant from the caged fighter we first clapped eyes on.
And there’s a third party in this new ‘family’. Charles and Logan share their home with a kind of manservant, the albino Caliban (a spot-on Stephen Merchant) whose dry wit really works as a brilliant counterpoint to Logan’s brusque demeanour. But something is about to shake them all out of the drudgery of their day-to-day existence.
A woman called Gabriela (a passionate Elizabeth Rodriguez) has a job for LOGAN. To take a young girl to North Dakota where she will be safe. This girl, Laura (a wonderful debut performance from young Dafne Keen) is unlike any other though and in the discovery of how she’s different and who she really is, makes the Wolverine face his own reason for living.
What follows is completely gripping. Mangold, with his co-screenwriters Scott Frank and Michael Green, have fashioned here a dark character study inside a sci-fi action movie. With an undercurrent of foreboding, we see these people all come to important decisions as to who they are. And when you watch those moments, it’s incredibly moving.
The film also has a brace of fabulous performances in the men who are against our hero. Boyd Holbrook’s slippery Southern-talking henchman Pierce and Richard E. Grant’s malevolent, quietly spoken doctor Xander Rice really own the screen when they’re on it. But of course, it all comes down to Hugh Jackman in the end. His tremendous portrayal of this most iconic of X-Men really will stand the test of time. Bravo Hugh, I say!