Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen
Run Time: 137 mins
‘Logan’ is the much-anticipated swansong to this iconic character that Hugh Jackman has made his own since the beginning of the ‘X-Men’ franchise. I am generally a big fan of this franchise and other than last year’s ‘X-Men: Apocalypse‘, have been entertained at the least by all of them and a couple of them, I have been well and truly wowed by. This is the third attempt Hugh Jackman has made with this character in a standalone film – Gavin Hood’s 2009 ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ is generally regarded as the worst entry in the franchise. Conversely, I really liked it. Then, James Magnold directed 2013’s ‘The Wolverine’ which until its last 15/20 minutes is a near-perfect film and is my favourite comic-book film behind Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’. My excitement when Mangold was revealed to be back in the director’s chair for ‘Logan’ was at an all-time high – he managed to craft a near-perfect iteration of this character before and has made some other great films such as the 2007 remake of Western ‘3:10 to Yuma’. After the success of ‘Deadpool‘, ‘Logan’ was revealed to be filming with a 15 / R rating in mind so for James Mangold who not only is a great director, but also being given the opportunity to make a film he really wants to make without the confines of certification is a dream come true. This is coupled with the fact that Jackman has vowed for this to be his last performance as the character and in the strong marketing leading up to the release of this film, it genuinely looks like Jackman and Mangold want to make the very best film they can. ‘Logan’ tells the story of a battered and ageing Wolverine having to care for Professor Xavier who then has to lend assistance to the protection of a young mutant, who seemingly bears many similarities to him whilst being pursued by sinister forces.
‘Logan’ is not just a fantastic superhero film, it is also a fantastic Western film that just happens to have a superhero starring in it. The Western genre is a genre that is close to my heart so not only is it refreshing to be given another ace Western but for it to be in the shape of ‘Logan’ is extremely impressive. The film is gritty, swearytastic and deliciously violent, fully earning the film a 15 / R rating. The performances by the cast all-round are great and Mangold directs this film with real flair. The film has a lot of emotional beats and really develops these characters that we have come to empathise with over the course of this franchise. The story, also manages to surprise with a couple of great twists and turns. I’m not sure if it’s better than ‘The Wolverine’ but it is definitely equal to it and both of Mangold’s efforts are the best comic-book films since ‘The Dark Knight’.
The performances really are superb and you can really sense the conviction in both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart and that they aren’t in it just for the cash. These are two individuals who genuinely seem to really want to pay respect to these characters. Jackman, with the elevated age rating is finally allowed to swear which helps establish a sense of realism in the film and when the action arrives, detail certainly is dwelled upon. This is truly nasty violence and isn’t just toothless violence that has a lack of purpose in a 12A / PG-13 film. ‘Logan’ is also Patrick Stewart’s best performance who really gets to display his acting chops as a dying Professor X who relies on Logan to live. His character is the lynchpin in harmony in Logan’s life and it’s in the films quieter moments, of which there a lot of, that really allow these characters a space to breathe. I must admit initially I was a little hesistant that both Stephen Merchant and Richard E. Grant had been cast and was worried they would be hammy and lack seriousness but both of them are fantastic. Merchant’s Caliban gets some great character moments early on in the film and although he’s not really a character that has played a big impact in these films beforehand (Caliban featured in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ played by Tómas Lemarquis) but it feels as if we have known him for a long time. Richard E. Grant doesn’t show up until late on into the film but his character is cold and calculated and when allowed to, sinister. Boyd Holbrook, as the main villain, is decent and is menacing enough at times but this film isn’t his to showcase his talent. Mangold took a big risk casting Dafne Keen as Laura / X-23 who Logan has to take under his wing but she is excellent and is a great physical actress, not getting a lot of lines in the script. One of the small problems I have with the film is a plot device in the final act where her character changes and it was quite a jarring scene initially but it was something that I managed to settle with.
One of the most significant reasons as to why this film has had the wild success it has is beacuse of the decision for it to be rated 15 / R. This is something that ‘Deadpool’, although the film was lacking, managed to demonstrate and this has translated seamlessly to ‘Logan’. Violence and strong language are not just used for the sake of it, they are used to establish a more coherent realism and this helps to create a stronger versimilitude. It’s refreshing to see that these films have provided examples to others that you don’t just need to appeal to the widest common denominator to succeed and rake in as much cash as you can, the quality and integrity of the actual film itself is bigger at stake.
The score by Marco Beltrami is simply superb, Beltrami did a sterling job on ‘The Wolverine’ but here he experiments a little more, for example infusing elements of jazz or piano into its eclectic score. Originally when the film was announced, Cliff Martinez was meant to assume scoring duties which I feel would have been interesting and we’ll never know what he had up his sleeve but Beltrami is a reliable composer who collaborates with Mangold a lot and it’s impressive that he’s managed to craft a score this good whilst being hired very late into the game. The cinematography by John Mathieson is also superb and he doesn’t just settle for the quick-cuts so commonly used in these types of films – he knows when to hold onto a shot a little longer than is comfortable and the slow pace of editing helps create this Western feel.
I loved ‘Logan’ and I really felt a great sense of relief when the credits started to roll and the film was pretty much as great as I expected it to be. It’s too often where you get a film that really plays its card right with its marketing material only for the actual film to be underwhelming and I was also initially worried at the univeral acclaim that this film has recieved as my critical opinion can quite often wildly differ from the consensus if you a regular reader of this website. The entire cast and crew have done a beautiful job with this film and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine recieves a wonderful send-off – please don’t be tempted to be drawn back to this world, Hugh, you’ve ended it perfectly! ‘Logan’ is one of the best films of the year and one of the best comic-book films of all time – it is so nearly perfect.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (Excellent)