The year is 2029. A man named James Howlett makes his living as a chauffeur in Texas. Gone are the days where James – you might know him better as Logan (played for the final time by Hugh Jackman) – would be seen running around with Charles Xavier’s (played by Patrick Stewart) X-Men, seemingly in an endless battle between good and evil. During that time, he went by a more colorful name: the Wolverine. These days, even the sound of someone calling him “Logan” makes his senses come unhinged – the less said about his past, the better. This man, Logan, is a complete shell of his former self; his healing powers are being impeded by the adamantium that is fused to his bones, which is (in effect) poisoning him and aging him greatly. When he’s not driving around Texas, he’s hustling for prescription drugs, in an effort to treat Professor Xavier (suffering from a dangerous neurodegenerative disease), whom he secretly cares for at an abandoned smelting plant in Mexico.
One day, during a chauffeur gig at a funeral, he is discovered by a woman named Gabriela (played by Elizabeth Rodriguez). She asks that he take her and her daughter, Laura (played by Dafne Keen) to place in North Dakota known as Eden. He initially refuses, having been found earlier by a man named Donald Pierce (played by Boyd Holbrook) regarding these same people. After a change of heart, Logan accepts the job, but soon finds Gabriela murdered. He continues on with Laura (and Professor Xavier) by his side, not realizing that he and this 11-year-old girl have more in common than he thinks.
It’s a shame that this film had to come out in March. I say this because if it had been held until the peak Oscar season (October-December) there is no doubt in my mind that Hugh Jackman would be in the conversation for Best Actor. Jackman truly shines in this film; he gives the Logan character – a character he’s now played for the better part of 17 years – such a newfound depth, something that we’ve rarely seen out of so-called “comic book films.” The Logan of this film, of this time, is broken down, he’s beaten, and he’s at the end of his rope. Presumably, he’s seen all of his friends and former partners die. He’s the last of a dying breed – according to the film; no new mutants have been born in the 25 years preceding the events of LOGAN. Jackman perfectly captures a frame of mind that, for any one of us, is hard to imagine. This is the kind of performance you commonly see in “Oscar-bait” films – in fact, you can call LOGAN a straight-up drama film as easily as you can call it a superhero film, and the performances of both Jackman and Patrick Stewart (as Charles Xavier) have a lot to do with that.
And as great as Hugh Jackman is here, one cannot overlook the performances of both Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen. Stewart’s previous portrayals of Professor Xavier did not come anywhere near the emotional depth that he takes the character in LOGAN. Like Logan, Stewart is a shell of his former self – and also like Logan, living with something that is killing him, little by little, every day. Yet, Xavier still remains Logan’s voice of reason – his father figure, whereas Logan becomes more of a “reluctant father figure” to Laura throughout the course of the film’s events. Stewart was given some great dialogue to work with as well – many of his speeches are real tear-jerkers, delivered beautifully, which just help to fully round out this character in a way that we’ve never seen before in an X-MEN film.
Dafne Keen’s portrayal of Laura, in my view, is right up there in the discussion for best/most memorable film debuts. For such a young career, to have a performance such as this under her belt is a huge indicator as to how far this talented actress can go in the future. When an actor can evoke emotion and angst in the vein of a skilled thespian using only facial expressions – which the character of Laura did throughout the majority of the film – that is when you know you have an exceptional talent. In her scenes with Jackman, she was able to convey both her intensity and her innocence; with many of the actions committed by Laura in the film (including a sliced face here and there), it could’ve been easy to forget that she’s just a child. Keen’s performance balanced both intensity and innocence, and she did it in a way that’s already had people talking.
Speaking of balance, this film does an excellent job of balancing its action and its drama. As I mentioned above, you can easily call LOGAN both a drama film and a superhero film. In the lead-up to its release, a few critics have called it the, “’DARK KNIGHT’ of the X-MEN universe.” While I wouldn’t necessarily go that far, the comparisons are fair. Both THE DARK KNIGHT and LOGAN tread that line in such eloquent style that you almost forget that these are superhero/comic book films on the surface. Rarely can a single film effectively extend itself into different genres simultaneously, and both THE DARK KNIGHT and LOGAN transcend their default genres and reach for heights that many used to think were impossible for superhero films to reach. LOGAN certainly earns its R-rating with its intense (and fairly bloody) action sequences, while still pushing character development and real drama to make the audience care about said action sequences, to give them stakes and, most importantly, meaning.
If this truly is Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Logan/Wolverine (which all signs currently point to ‘yes’), then he certainly went out with a bang, and I give him all the credit in the world for wanting to go out in a blaze of glory. I really hope that critics and Academy members alike keep Hugh Jackman in mind for a possible Oscar nomination next year – I dare say, I’d put this performance up against any of the Best Actor nominees from this year’s Oscars, and you’ll see equal levels of intensity, of emotion, of drama, and of just sheer raw talent. But even if he is forgotten come Oscar time, nobody can take this performance away from him. It now belongs to the audience, and to the ages. This is a film that not only breathes new life into an established franchise, but is also able to transcend its own genre, making it that much more memorable. So if you are a moviegoer who prefers drama over action/superhero flicks, I urge you to give LOGAN a watch – I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.
If LOGAN is any indication as to where the X-MEN franchise is headed, then let’s just say I’m quite excited for what the future holds.
2017 • 137 Minutes • United States
Color • English • 20th Century Fox
cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen