Film Review: Logan

Fading superhero is forced to rescue young mutants from evil government agents in an outstanding Marvel outing.
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Age has caught up to Wolverine. In Logan, the former superhero ekes out a living as a limo driver, chauffeuring clueless kids to prom parties. It's 2029, mutants have largely disappeared, and the adamantium that once made Logan (Hugh Jackman) invincible is spreading poison throughout his body.

Even Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), the once mighty telepath who ruled the X-Men as Professor X, is facing mortality. His debilitating brain seizures are barely kept under control by black-market sedatives Logan cops from a hospital loading dock. The two would likely fade away into the Mexican desert were it not for Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez), a nurse who needs help.

Her young charge Laura (Dafne Keen) is on the run from mad scientist Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), head of the shadowy Transigen lab. His agent Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) will stop at nothing to chain Laura up for more experiments. A refuge in North Dakota is her only hope.

It's a classic setup: reluctant hero, his mysterious charge, their journey into the unknown. The Wolverine, the character's last solo outing, used the skeleton of The Big Sleep to fashion a tale of betrayal over generations. Here the sources include Shane, a western that simultaneously embraced and destroyed frontier myths.

Logan pulls off a similar trick, condemning the entire Marvel Universe ("ice cream for bedwetters," as Logan calls it) while finding a path to redemption for its damaged souls. It's a movie about coming to terms with death, about accepting faults and failures, about facing up to the past and abandoning the future.

It's also thrilling in ways comic-book movies—or any movies, for that matter—rarely are. Tough, intense, intimate, it hurtles through its plot, flinging off ideas and subplots other filmmakers would kill for. The action scenes are shockingly violent, but so tightly focused on the characters that the stunts and special effects feel organic, complementary, not the point of the show.

The hard-bitten Wolverine has always been the most cynical of Marvel's movie characters, and in Jackman's hands he becomes a modern-day answer to an earlier generation's antiheroes. Traces of his humor remain, but they are shadowed by a new sense of desperation, of time running out.

Stewart is a revelation, his work here the equal of his Beckett and Pinter stage performances. In previous Marvel movies, the actor seemed ridiculously overqualified, but here there's no sense of separation, no irony in his acting.

As the troubled, almost mute Laura, Dafne Keen makes an impressive feature debut. Boyd Holbrook and Stephen Merchant are also effective in important parts.

James Mangold, who also directed The Wolverine, does a superb job marshaling an excellent technical crew; more important, he has a keen sense of why Logan is such a compelling character. Some nods to Mad Max and Unforgiven may feel a little obvious, and a little Shane goes a long way. But Logan is the best argument in years for making movies out of comic books.

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