"This is what life looks like; people love each other. You should take a moment..."
In the not too distant future mutants are all but extinct, slipping away into myth and legend and adorning the pages of comic books. This is the world in which Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Charles Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart) find themselves, aged, weary and hiding just over the Mexican border living out the rest of their lives in secret. With Charles’s health rapidly declining, Logan is doing what he can to help and support his mentor when he’s offered a lucrative opportunity from a woman wanting a young girl (Dafne Keen) escorted to North Dakota and across the boarder into Canada. After taking the job Logan soon finds the young girl has dangerous powers of her own and even more dangerous men hunting her.
“Logan” is unlike any X-Men film that has come before. The ninth film in the franchise is a distinctly grittier, more violent film (we have the success “Deadpool” to thank for that). However, it’s not merely the violence and swearing that separates it from the previous films in the long-running series, more than any of it’s predecessors “Logan” proves itself to a be a truly human story. The X-Men have long been consider allegories for racism, sexual discrimination and other socials issues that work to point out “the other” and while these issues are evident in “Logan” it instead shifts its focus to the inner struggle of its characters, not the larger societal ones, making it both unique and a wonderful departure from the same, tired old narratives comic book films continue to serve up for audiences.
Hugh Jackman returns one final time to the role that launched him as an international star, seeming to relish the opportunity to give the character some growth and depth before bowing out. In this outing he delivers some much needed gravitas to a character that, while always enjoyable on screen, had become somewhat stale in the last few outings. Here Jackman plays a man who has seen a lot and lost even more, an old man fighting his inner demons and his past reminiscent of an old western character heading out for one last gunfight (not unlike Clint Eastwood’s Bill Munny from the classic “Unforgiven”). He gives his heart and soul into his performance, delivering one of his finest on screen roles to date and a fitting send off to the character he will always be remembered for playing. Similarly Sir Patrick Stewart commands the screen, once again returning as the nonagenarian Professor X, transforming his once powerful leader of the X-Men into a man on the edge of his abilities, struggling with his mental health, his age and the weight of the mission he finds himself tasked with. Newcomer Dafne Keen as the mysterious young girl, Laura, proves herself equally imposing with her first on screen role, easily holding her own against these two well-established screen icons.
Returning to the franchise for a second time, writer/director James Mangold clearly shares the same affection for these characters that his cast does. His influence and impact on the film radiates off the screen as each frame is infused with rich, earthy details similar to his previous western “3:10 to Yuma”, which is precisely what the X-Men franchise (hell, even comic book movies in general) needed. Mangold approaches the material and the story as if it’s just a film, not a superhero film. This might come off as sounding somewhat derisive but it’s what is key to the films narrative as he focuses on the characters first and the action and set pieces as a second, making this film not unlike Nolan’s classic “The Dark Knight”.
The film play like a hybrid of The Road, Leon: The Professional and the Lone Wolf and Cub films, with a little bit of classic western style thrown in for good measure. These influences and clear and not only bring a new flair and style to the comic book genre but helps create a mood and tone that is sombre and rewarding. Mangold cleverly in one scene has Charles lying in bed watching the old Alan Ladd western “Shane”, something that may seem a little “on the nose” at the time but works as a brilliant device to set the tone, mood and acts as a sort of harbinger for the third act. It’s these nice little touches that make the film so enjoyable.
“Logan” is the finale to the X-Men saga audiences deserve. Having been through the good (X2, First Class) and the bad (The Last Stand, Origins: Wolverine) they’re finally being treated to a film that is not only grounded in reality but treats the material with as much earnestness as possible. Brilliant performances and a unique style make it not only the best comic book film in years but probably one of the better films we’ll see in 2017 and with any luck it’ll be the film that will help evolve the comic book genre into something more serious and adult, telling real human stories albeit in fantastic settings.
8 out of 10.
Reviewed by Chris Swan.