Logan is a Film Noir in Western clothing. The sombre and significant final outing for Hugh Jackman’s interpretation of Wolverine is striking in its evocation of the classical American genre. Rather than existing in a heightened expressionistic world of shadowy silhouettes, morally ambiguous detectives and sexually provocative Femme Fatales: Logan embraces the inherent fatalistic and pessimistic qualities of the genre and transposes them to a radiant and rural West Texas setting. At the same time, the bleak proceedings are injected with a poignant mythical grandeur.
Set in the near future of 2029 where mutant kind is on the precipice of oblivion: the picture depicts an ageing Logan, who escorts a young mutant girl called Laura (played with terrifying savagery by Dafne Keen in her first on-screen performance) to a mythical haven known as Eden. The character of Wolverine has always had a striking versatility. Since his inception, the character has been portrayed as a Rōnin, an archetypical Western gunslinger and contemporary fabled Werewolf.
In Logan, director James Mangold takes the reluctant father representation of the character and fuses it with the Western gunslinger figure. The result is a fascinating, if not flawed interplay that benefits from X-Men comics being a real source of fiction in the movie universe. Throughout, there is a prickly acknowledgement of their fantastical and rosy embellishments of sobering real world truths. In one scene, Logan sternly lectures Laura on the medium’s worth by saying “Maybe a quarter of it happened but not like this. In the real world, people die.”
Logan’s Achilles’ heel comes in its portrayal of violence. While the advent of an R rating means the character can be definitively showcased in all his wild and savage glory; the raw and virtually exhilarating brutality are at odds with the anguished soul of the film. In its more introspective moments, the film wants to be like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. However, it does not understand that picture’s harrowing recitations on violence and myth. In this regard, the picture is not quite a transcendent piece of pop mythology. Instead, it’s an admirably well-crafted film with ambition and touching intimacy.