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LOGAN Rough Cuts

Logan

Directed by James Mangold
Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen

7.5/10

The year is 2029, the world has dramatically changed and the X-Men are no more. Logan (Hugh Jackman), scarred and broken (both mentally and physically), works as a driver to support an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) hiding in Mexico. However when a young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen), running from an armed private security force (the cybernetically enhanced Reavers) stumbles onto him, Logan must reluctantly return to his old ways to protect her. As they flee he discovers that he shares an unexpected connection with Laura, and that the Age of the Mutants, may not be as over as he once thought.

The third time is the charm. Finally 20th Century Fox gets it right with Logan, producing a solo film about the beloved comic book character that does him justice, after the debacle of X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), and the close but not quiet there The Wolverine (2013). It does this in a most extraordinary way. Whereas there are strong echoes of the character’s comic book history (drawing on Old Man Logan, the origins of X-23, and even shades of Messiah Complex for inspiration), they have drawn heavily on the symbology of the Western to create it’s own rough beast.

This seems to be the fix that Wolverine needed. No longer as beholden to its comic book roots, it creates a stunningly violent story of redemption and loss, that ironically lands closer to its source than the previous two iterations (one which tried to re-invent, the other that followed too slavishly close).

The Western comparison is one that Logan wears proudly on its sleeve, with many references appearing throughout the film (especially to Shane). Jackman portrays Logan as a burnt out fighter (albeit with adamantium claws rather than a six-shooter) – tired, scarred, grizzled, disillusioned, and desperately seeking a way out.

With its cut down continuity Logan no longer needs to play host to an ensemble cast of fan favourite superheroes. Instead it is free to dedicate time to key relationships and explore those. Hence Jackman gets to delve into a dramatic range for his dealings with other characters, Stewart and Keen especially, as well as popping claws and flying into a gory berserker rage. This is certainly a reward for the audience, as Stewart is in fine form as a Charles Xavier that is not the man he used to be. At times it is a show stealing performance as he verges into Lear like madness, but it is those quiet lucid moments where we see the real Charles that he is at his most powerful.

With the two obvious powerhouses of the X-Men franchise sharing the stage, it’s hard to see how newcomer Dafne Keen could make an impact as Laura, especially as her character is mute for much of the proceedings (and howling for much of the rest). Yet she brings this strange dichotomy of calm and unfocused rage to X-23. Looking into her eyes you have no doubt about her character’s wish to eviscerate people, nor any about her ability to do so. She is very much like Logan, and that connection creates a strong bond in the film.

This is not to say Logan is faultless. At two hours seventeen minutes, it feels like it could use some pruning. There is also one special effect that takes you out of the moment, spoiling the audiences immersion in story. Neither of these are deal breakers, and your mileage may vary.

A fitting finale appearance, as after nine times playing the character Jackman has decided to call it a day. Wolverine is allowed to go out with a bang (well, a snikt and a bestial growl), and Logan is a stunning and bloody tribute to that.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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