When the first X-Men movie came out back in 2000 there was an outcry that the virtual unknown who had been cast to play Wolverine wasn’t short or Canadian. Almost two decades later Hugh Jackman is an international star of stage and screen is virtually indivisible from the adamantium-skeletoned anti-hero that made him a household name, so it was with no little sadness that I went into this movie knowing that it would be the last time I would see Jackman in his signature role.
This film is set in the near future and features a road trip through a post-mutant world, where the Wolverine must come to terms with his past, his present and his legacy. What does a virtually immortal man who has been an animal and a weapon for most of his long life think about when he finally starts to age? How does he deal with the world now that he can no longer regenerate and either fight or run from his problems?
When we join him Logan is the almost last of a breed that appears to be going extinct. Hugh Jackman sells the world-weary bitterness of Logan so well that its both a joy and an emotional struggle to watch him. This is a man who has been beaten, chewed up and spat out by a life that stubbornly refuses to end and finally give him the peace that he craves. The simmering rage that Logan runs on is constantly there under the surface in even the more comedic elements of the film and it’s a performance that packs gallons of feeling into every scene.
Patrick Stewart also returns as Charles Xavier. The wheelchair-bound psychic is 90 and losing control of both himself and his powers, so he is basically a ticking bomb. Stewart fills the role with such a fragile gravitas that I found to be painfully poignant. The interaction between Charles and Logan is one of a student and teacher who now find themselves in a world where neither term fits and the only thing that matters is survival. Their relationship is so delightfully complicated and yet incredibly sad as they bicker like an old married couple between moments of clarity and deep emotion.
The third person who deserves extreme praise is Dafne Keen. Despite only being 12, she manages to be completely convincing as Laura and stand up to her more experienced cast mates. Once she joins the proceedings her presence throws the stagnant world that Logan and Charles have been in out of the window and they are forced to find their way back to a place that neither of them have been in for a long time. The relationship that builds between these three is about as heart-warming and soul-crushing as they come. These three broken people find something in one another that is missing within them and become a believable family over the course of the movie; fighting, joking and learning about each other in a way that never feels anything but real and is the true back-bone of the movie as a whole.
As with many comic book movies the villains in this piece, Boyd Holbrook and Richard E. Grant, don’t have a huge amount to do other than provide antagonists. Luckily both of them fill their slight roles with a lot of charisma, so their lack of plot points doesn’t hinder the proceedings too much. Also, once the hugely emotive finale hit any complaints about the thinness of the bad guys was the last thing on my mind.
The film itself has enough pace and action to make you hang onto your seat, but also enough confidence to allow the slower, character-driven moments breathe. The action is punchy, bloody and very, very violent; as befits a movie about a man with knives that come out of his hand. Despite this for the first time since Captain America: Civil War I found myself caring about what happened to the characters in a comic book movie. This film echoes with the feel of classic westerns like Shane, Pale Rider and The Shootist as well as more modern fare like 2016’s Hell or High Water. The only bits that let the film down are a few moments of overt “comic bookiness”, which I found took me out of the gritty and grounded world that Mangold and his team have created.
So, despite a few minor hiccups we're left with a movie that finally allows Logan out of his cage and truly showcases the pain that a man forced to be a weapon for his whole life can feel.
Review Courtesy of Movies with Moon