You can break the mould – Logan Noir (Film Review)

“A man is what he is. You can’t break the mould… Joey, there’s living with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand sticks. There’s no going back. Now you run on home to your mother, and tell her…tell her everything’s all right. And there aren’t anymore guns in the valley.” – Shane (1953)

Although we are nearly halfway through 2017 – a scary thought, I know – no mainstream film, in my humble opinion, has excelled the standard set by Logan. In a time in which superhero fatigue is no longer a haunting spectre that only a few doom mongers prophesied, but an actual, well heard groan amongst the viewing population, the final outing of Hugh Jackman’s 17-year-old portrayal of Wolverine seemed to re-energise my perspective of the genre; it made me again realise the depth that can be extracted from something that has become essentially a re-churning of the same familiar elements. And, despite its R rating, Logan has also captured the attention of other audiences: on a budget of only $97 million dollars – the estimated cost Disney pays for Robert Downey Jr’s personalised Iron Man sock press – the film has grossed over $617 million dollars worldwide.

To celebrate this success, Fox has decided to hold for one night only a theatrical release of a new monochrome cut of the film, which will later be released on Blu-Ray. The project, entitled Logan Noir, is in many ways pointless. It is not necessary, it is probably just an attempt at a cash grab, and it is probably just another way to cling on to Hugh Jackman for a few more months. But, in the midst of these self aggrandising reasons, the transition does add something subtle and seemingly elusive – like drinking Coke out of a can as opposed to out of a bottle. The taste is the same, but the sensation is a little different.

The black and white transition does have its draw backs, however. There are moments – although very rare, in which the green screen and CGI did become more obvious than in was in the original cut. In addition, The copious amount of blood feels diluted, resulting in the rawness of the violence feeling somewhat tamer that it would be in colour.

The title is also undoubtedly a misstep. When anyone talks of Noir, images of femme fatales, nihilism and untrustworthy detectives being followed by even more untrustworthy shadows, spring to mind. Logan does have many dark moments – there is no doubt it is a film teeming with physical and emotional pain – but it is not a dark movie.

In fact, I believe that Logan is laced with hope; a journey towards the realisation that although you are living at the end of an era, solace can be obtained; purpose, even in the most baron of wasteland, can be found. This black and white cut emphasised this element of the film, by simultaneously creating a tone of nostalgia for and reconciliation for the past, charging some scenes with a more distinct emotional poignancy. For instance, the dinner scene in which Logan (Jackman), Charles (Patrick Stewart) and Laura (Dafne Keen) have dinner with the with the Munson family, takes on a new depth due to lack of colour. Suddenly, what was already an emotional scene, becomes awash with more significance: the monochrome, creates an atmosphere of nostalgia the echoes Logan’s and Charles’ longing for moments in which they had a family like this, enhancing the vividness of their joy at this moment whilst also foregrounding the painfulness of their loss. Subtle, small moments like this benefit from the reduction of colour.

It is with this that I would like to return to the quote from the 50s western, Shane. This quote is of great significance for Logan, both alternatively and thematically, and with that I will issue a *spoiler warning* from this point on.

In the original western, this quote represents how the titular character’s heroics, which save the homesteaders from an evil cattle baron, cannot be a part of what they have helped save – ‘killing’ will spoil the idyllic, even though it is crucial to ensure its survival. Therefore, Shane must retreat into the wild where he emerged from in the beginning of the film, to ensure that his corrupting ‘brand’ is permanently removed from the world he entered.

In the case of Logan, Laura – notably not the titular character like in the classic western – says this over Wolverine’s grave. The eulogy form suggests that Logan, like Jackman, can no longer stay in this world that he has helped create. When I first watched this film, this scene moved me to tears due to the sense of loss felt by Keen’s character and my own overall sense of nostalgia for Jackman’s character. However, due to a subtle depth brought to the already rich film by the black and white transition, I realised something new about this scene, something that blends both grief and relief.

See, in Shane, the character stresses how you have to live ‘with a killing’ and that there is ‘no going back’ from it, an idea that is continually explored throughout Logan. In one scene in particular, Logan explains to Laura that his nightmares consist of him killing people, and when she with childlike innocence and naivety tells him that she has done the same, he says that ‘you are going to have to learn to live with that’, even though they were bad people. Furthermore, Logan’s torment, because of his powers, are prolonged – the longer he lives the more people he will have to kill, the more emotional pain he has to live with – there is seemingly ‘no going back.’ However, by finding love for Laura, desiring to help her and the other children out of a sense of duty, rather than for a financial reward, and, even, sacrificing his life for that cause, Logan has ‘broken the mould’ that this film first finds him trapped within. We soon discover that the character is going to die due to his metal skeleton poisoning his blood. The character’s death is somewhat inevitable. However, his actions mean that he has progressed enough so that he can break the cycle, achieving a good and heroic death. Laura’s eulogy can then be seen as somewhat sombrely ironic because of the fact there are “no more guns in the valley” – Wolverine no longer has to kill anyone – is a relief.

On reflection, maybe all this thought was only prompted by a second viewing of the film, and had nothing to do with the use of black and white. Who knows? However, if you have already watched James Mangold’s masterpiece and want to revisit it, Logan Noir takes little away from the original version. And, in fact, it just may add something new to a film that broke the mould of superhero movies by returning to what had come before. As of now, Logan, for good reason, still remains the best film of 2017.

Dir: James Mangold
Scr: James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Sir Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen
Prd: Lauren Schuler Donner, Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker
DOP: John Mathieson
Music: Marco Beltrami
Country: US
Year: 2017
Run time: 137 mins

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