Logan (2017)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 3/13/17
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Stephen Merchant, Boyd Holbrook

In the near future, mutants have been nearly wiped out by the government. Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) spends his days quietly blending into society as a limo driver, while taking care of a mentally ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who is hiding out in Mexico. Unfortunately, national security catches up to Logan in the form of a ruthless and relentless military man named Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), and Logan's plans for a peaceful retirement are shattered. It doesn't help that despite his incredible healing powers, Logan is slowly dying. Things get really out of hand when a young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen) shows up on the scene, who has the same adamantium skeleton and healing powers as Logan does. She's an escaped experimental subject, and Pierce wants her back at all costs. This forces Logan, Xavier, and Laura to hit the road and get as far away as they can, knowing full well that their plight is hopeless.

"Logan" is a brutal film, both physically and emotionally. It's essentially a two hour long death scene for Wolverine, and Hugh Jackman's pained performance makes it agonizing to watch. Patrick Stewart also delivers a heartbreaking performance as the most powerful mind in world, crippled and bedridden by a degenerative brain condition. Anyone who has witnessed and/or cared for aging loved ones with dementia will find this difficult to watch. The young Dafne Keen is spectacular as Laura/X-23, and does an amazing job channeling youthful innocence, cultural naïveté, feral rage, and emotional vulnerability. I've only read one X-23 comic book, and Miss Keen nails the aesthetic perfectly. It's like she jumped right off the page and onto the screen.

With the surprising success of "Deadpool" (2016), Marvel was much more receptive to giving "Logan" an R rating, and it benefits greatly from it. The claws really come out this time and all of the blood, violence, and rage that the previous films shied away from comes out front and center. Its visceral impact brings a real sense of humanity and authenticity to the picture, as the slick veneer of cartoon violence is wiped away with a dirty, bloody rag. Laura's action scenes are shockingly violent as well, and have the added emotional impact of being performed by a tiny ten year old girl. Overall, the action scenes are very well done, with the exception of some distracting wire work and a handful of really bad digital compositions. The camera work is outstanding and remarkably smooth, which really keeps you in the action and helps you focus on what's happening. Although the film is superbly crafted and the performances really hit home, it feels overly long and suffers from sluggish pacing. The action scenes help to break up the emotionally heavy atmosphere, but it almost feels like they were added as an afterthought. At its core, it's an examination of a man coming to grips with his own mortality, and the sacrifices he makes to care for both an ailing father figure and a daughter he never knew existed. "Logan" isn't a perfect film, but it's probably the most grounded superhero film I've seen, and serves as a thoughtful and respectful send-off for one of Marvel's most cherished characters.