Movie Review: “Logan,” with Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, and Stephen Merchant
You know Logan is serious when it literally opens with the word “fuck.” What else is there for our protagonist to say, really? The year is 2029. There hasn’t been a new mutant in 25 years. The world has turned uber-conservative (not that surprising, given the world we live in right now, actually); people are addicted to corn syrup (… also not surprising); and the X-Men don’t exist anymore. Few other words could capture all the nihilistic monotony the one-time Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, of Eddie the Eagle) is feeling.
So how does the man whose impressively rapid healing power practically makes him invincible spend his days? By working as a chauffeur, picking up douchey fratboys who chant “USA! USA!” out of the sunroof and drunk bachelorettes who flash him through the partition. Every few days or so, he crosses the border to Mexico, a few bottles of illegally bought pills in hand, to a couple of rusted-out, beaten-down buildings in the middle of the desert. They look abandoned, but they actually house the most powerful brain in all humankind—now ravaged by disease.
Professor Charles Xavier (Stewart, of X-Men: Days of Future Past) is either subdued by those shadily obtained drugs, begrudgingly given by Caliban (Stephen Merchant, of Hall Pass), Logan’s partner in hiding Charles, or remembering moments of his prior life—even crap like Taco Bell jingles. “What did you do? Why are we here?” Xavier demands of Logan, but the reality is that it’s what Charles is capable of that has people in the know terrified. His brain has already been declared a weapon of mass destruction, and with seizures so powerful that they can essentially stop time, his body is no longer his own.
Xavier is a man lost in space and time—just like Logan, whose body, after all these years, finally seems to be failing. “You’re sick, I can smell it,” says Caliban, who can sense the existence of other mutants, and who understands (as Logan does) that the adamantium that once made him so powerful is now making him purposeless. His body takes longer to heal. His hands, where his claws come out, are infected with pus. And his eyesight—well, the man needs reading glasses, just like most other senior citizens.
But things change when Xavier announces that he can feel a new mutant, a sensation he hasn’t experienced in decades. Coincidentally, that feeling occurs soon after a Mexican nurse tracks down Logan, begging him to protect a little girl named Laura (riveting newcomer Dafne Keen), with vengeful eyes and a walk like a prowl. The woman wants Logan to take Laura from Mexico to Eden, a protected place in Canada. “She’s a mutant like you,” Charles says, and it’s that sense of camaraderie—or is it something more?—that inspires Logan to finally, begrudgingly agree, setting them on a road trip through the United States.
They’re not alone, of course: They’re being trailed by the mysterious Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook, of The Host), with a hipster haircut, a stylish overcoat, and a bionic arm, working on orders from the corporation Transigen. He has the kind of drawling Southern accent that sounds utterly charming as he threatens your very life, and with similarly enhanced mercenaries in tow, he’s intent on getting Laura back in the company’s clutches. Why he wants her so badly, and why Charles is so convinced that the girl is a symbol of promise in this utterly hopeless time, become the driving forces of Logan.
It is kind of insane, actually, how casually inclusive and confidently socially conscious Logan is. In Trump’s America, Logan is the movie we need, a film that turns Wolverine from a typical X-Man hero into the kind of explicit social justice warrior these characters were meant to be: He transports an illegal Mexican immigrant across the United States; he assists a black family in protecting their water source against a bunch of white racists; he illegally obtains drugs for a man who can’t afford them on his own (we don’t know what kind of healthcare plan Charles has!); and he fights against a corporation whose main public face is a Southern white guy with military experience who clearly has no qualms hurting children. I mean, COME ON.
It’s not just the broad narrative that raises Logan to such an intensely high level, but the little details that begin with that opening “Fuck” and progress forward: the conservative news pundit dismissively spitting “Why are we still talking about mutants?”; the heartbreaking quality of Charles muttering to Logan, “I always know who you are, sometimes I just don’t recognize you”; the posters of Abe Lincoln and Sitting Bull on the bedroom wall of one of Laura’s friends; the samurai sword and dog tags in Logan’s possession (nods to The Wolverine); Logan’s face when he hears the sound of children’s laughter, a reminder of what once was at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, all those years ago. All of that intention adds up to a well-considered, meticulously planned whole, a narrative that knows exactly what it is trying to accomplish—and goddamn, does it deliver.
What Logan leaves you with is the idea that “a man has to be what he is”—that there’s no escaping identity, no running away from who you are. What nature creates is right and worth defending, even if it means with bloodshed and destruction and sheer will. Some things are that important, and Logan delivers that viscerally and remarkably. You’ll feel it, and you won’t be able to forget it.