Logan ★★★★

So, after 17 years and 9 movies, Hugh Jackman’s starmaking, career defining run as Wolverine comes (allegedly) to an end. To say that the solo Wolverine run has saved the best for last might not be saying all that much, but it’s certainly, thankfully the case.

Director James Mangold returns to the franchise he dragged out of utter mediocrity in 2013 with The Wolverine, a film that not only gave Hugh Jackman more to do as an actor than this franchise had ever done before, but also added a touch of flavour to proceedings, taking the character east, and blending superhero stylings with a little hard boiled noir. 4 years on for the grand finale, Jackman and Mangold head back west, and take the Western genre itself (most explicitly George Stevens’ Shane) as their source of inspiration.

Talking of inspiration, after the studios success with Deadpool last year, it seems the R rated superhero movie is very much the in thing, and this movie doesn’t go light on the F bombs or the uber violence. Some might find it all a little much, the gratuitous violence certainly seems more than a little excessive, but unlike Deadpool I would say Logan actually feels first and foremost like someone wanted to tell a story rather than just play with the R rating, and none of that stuff ever overwhelms the characters or the narrative.

All positives aside, the movie is probably a little longer than it needs to be, takes probably unnecessary diversions, and makes unnecessary expansions in its second half that drag it out far more than makes sense. None of the execution is ever particularly poor, but I feel like once E.R. veteran Eriq LaSalle enters proceedings, the movie becomes something less than the pretty faultless piece of work that it had been up till that point.

That the loss of focus doesn’t massively derail the movie is primarily thanks to Jackman, doing some of the most soulful, tortured work of his life. This movie gets right to the heart of the character, a character who has been around for a very long time, far better than any of the previous efforts have ever really come close to doing without explicitly making itself about that. It’s all just there in the central performance.

He gets more than able support from a strong cast that sees Stephen Merchant impressing in a primarily dramatic role, like Jackman’s, also draped in a certain sadness. Coming off the back of Narcos, Boyd Holbrook gets the chance to cut loose, and he fits the devilishly, dastardly bastard role like a glove, as does Richard E. Grant in the role of exposition unloading, evil Brit.

Still, primary notice has to go to Patrick Stewart in almost Lear-like mode, the wise solemnity, world weariness, inherent paternal affection, and isolation induced madness all blended together to create a beautifully tragic character that gives Stewart something to do with the role that finally feels worthy of him as an actor. Yet it’s 11 year old Dafne Keen who comes close to stealing the whole movie from her more experienced co-stars. It’s not a complicated turn, but it requires a certain charm, a certain sort of Eastwood-ian cool to make engaging a character who barely utters a word in the entire movie, and she nails it.

Ultimately the performers are what lend true legitimacy to the movie, bringing the melancholy, wistful tale, brimming with the power lent it by the memories of the years that have gone by vividly to life. It sends Wolverine (supposedly) out in the right kind of way, with furious anger, a little regret, and a mass of psychological complications that twist and turn him on the road to the end. The movie is never heavy handed in its study of the character, but damn if it doesn’t have a weight.