Film: “Logan”; Director: James Mangold; Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Dafne Keen, Doris Morgado, Quincy Fouse; Rating: ***1/2
A stripped-down stand-alone feature, “Logan” is director James Mangold’s second shot at the mutant hero, the first being the 2013 released, “The Wolverine”. The two films share a similar smugness, but in “Logan”, the director takes the superhero genre in a new and challenging direction.
Seamlessly blending the Marvel Comic Universe and the American Old-West, the film is part Western and part road film, but, it remains true to its vision. It is gritty without being gloomy, grim without being awful. It is also a tragedy that never loses hope.
With a well-worn narrative template, it is the tale of a self-indulgent hero who rises to the occasion when a child is placed in his care.
Set in the future, after most of the mutant X-Men are dead and gone. The narrative begins with a salt-peppered and woebegone Logan working as a driver, spending his nights chauffeuring people within the city and across Tex-Mex border.
During the day, with the help of the albino mutant tracker Caliban, he cares for his dying mentor, Professor Charles Xavier who is now suffering from dementia.
It is during one of his night sojourns when he meets Gabriela a nurse working for Transigen – a company that indulges in reproducing mutants for nefarious activities. She requests Logan to escort an 11-year-old girl Laura to a place called Eden.
After he reluctantly accepts the job, Logan discovers that there is more to the little girl’s story, especially when he has to protect her from a team of mercenaries chasing them.
The film has stakes that feel real and fight choreography that’s fluid and engaging. Most importantly, it has characters with which you identify and care about.
Hugh Jackman in one of his best performances till date, as Logan, plays a man with emotions and weak moments, more than a superhero. With an indefatigable spirit and failing health, he interprets Logan as a man who has lost most of his friends and most of his purpose, thus hesitant to fight again. He is simply marvellous.
Dafne Keen as the mysterious, feral orphan Laura in her maiden big-screen role, makes the mostly silent Laura both mysterious and inwardly coiled, as an observer watching a world long denied to her. With her, the film resonates and she delivers wonderfully.
They are aptly supported by; Boyd Holbrook as Donal Pierce one of the mercenaries, Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier, Richard E. Grant as Dr. Rice, Elizabeth Rodriguez as Gabriela and Stephen Merchant as Caliban. They all have their moments of on-screen glory, and they excel.
The film is visceral and exciting to experience. Production Designer Francois Audouy and Costume Designer Daniel Orlandi eloquently create the setting, which is efficiently captured by cinematographer John Mathieson’s lens. His live action shots seamlessly merge with the computer generated images and each frame imbues a comics-based graphic impact which is broody rather than cartoonish.
The visuals are accompanied by Marco Beltrami’s fine score, which has an emotional as well as melodic elegance. It certainly elevates the viewing experience.
The film un-apologetically assumes that the audience will know the characters. However, those uninitiated with the Marvel Comics Universe, may find this confusing.
“Logan” is an emotionally satisfying film which bids a gracious adieu to the superhero.