‘Logan’ is a fantastic superhero film, transcending the genre supporting its style with substantive storytelling and highlighted by dazzling performances from Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen.
Logan takes place in the year 2029. Our hero (Hugh Jackman) is a broken shell of his former self. Tortured by his past and the loss of so many loved ones, he spends his free time drinking to ease the pain. By day, he tends to Professor X (Patrick Stewart) who has been diagnosed with dementia and is now prone to seizures; by night, he’s a chauffeur trying to save a few bucks to purchase a boat so he and Professor X can live at sea. It appears that Logan is making every effort to blend in with society and forget his sordid past. However, his desire to blend in hits a roadblock when a young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen) shows up at the hideout located on the Mexican border. Should he just take Professor X and let Laura fend for herself? Should he help her evade capture? Could helping Laura mean Logan will have to come to terms with the past?
It would be hard for to come up with a superhero performance that tops the one Hugh Jackman gives here. This isn’t the wisecracking and cigar smoking Wolverine that we’ve seen over the years. This version of Logan is one who can’t come to terms with both the trauma he’s inflicted on others and himself. For a character who is labeled as a mutant by society, this is the most human we’ve ever seen him. His performance has the gravitas of John Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn and the edge of Clint Eastwood’s William Munny.
Dafne Keen’s portrayal of Laura is a revelation. While Jackman’s performance is indeed vital to the success of this film, Keen’s performance is crucial to the thrust of the picture. Without getting too much into the movie, Laura at a young age has experienced a great deal of both physical and mental trauma. One could even make the argument that it’s the trauma that binds Logan and Laura together. What I found remarkable is that Keen can convey this pain for a large amount of the film without saying a single word. She’s able to project this past in her actions, facial expressions, and sometimes with a mere glance.
Writing and Direction
The writing in Logan walks a critical line between paying homage to the source material and developing a strong narrative. James Mangold, Micheal Green, and Scott Frank combine to develop a redemption story that dips its toes just enough into the superhero mythos, but it is rife with themes commonly found in most Westerns. They dedicate a significant amount of the story towards building the foundation for the bond between Logan/Laura and just enough time letting us know who the villains are.
It was a smart decision to avoid trying to tell the backstory of what happened to all of Logan’s former pals. Superhero films tend to make that mistake, and it often derails the story. In Dr. Strange, we didn’t need to know what an arrogant horse’s ass he was ( we got that in the first ten minutes of the film); what we all wanted to see was how he became Sorcerer Supreme.
Director James Mangold had a commitment from the onset of the movie to keep the focus on storytelling, and that showed in his shot selection. Instead of a lingering shot of bodies being ripped apart in battle, he concentrated on shots exhibiting the bleakness of their surroundings and the toll this narrative was taking on our main characters. I did think it was an exceptional sequence when instead of shooting Logan’s limo from a slight distance during their initial escape attempt, they choose to shoot up close and at the vehicle’s exact pace. That decision heightened the action and was reminiscent of numerous chase sequences seen in westerns.
To just refer to Logan as a great superhero movie is a tad bit rudimentary. Logan is a fantastic, compelling film. The performances from Jackman and Keen are rich and nuanced. The writing in the movie is balanced and hits all the right notes. This is James Mangold’s finest directorial work since Walk the Line. I could go on and on about various parts of this film, but that would spoil the experience for everyone. My advice is to go ahead and preorder your tickets now.