Logan ★★★★★

A masterwork, Logan stands as easily the best film in the X-Men franchise, and also as one of the hands down best films of 2017 period, being a truly majestic farewell to a character we've come to know and love like an old friend, done in a manner that fits his character absolutely perfectly, and stands as a true showcase of what can be done within the superhero genre, and how it can truly be a way to tell deep, compelling stories, without having to sacrifice any of the entertainment value.

James Mangold, who had previously brought us the solid back-to-basics thrills of The Wolverine is finally allowed complete freedom with a character he visibly has a passion for. As such, the film serves as a true love letter to the character, and Mangold's bleak, neo-western approach suits the narrative, which he helped craft, like a finely tailored suit. This is a dark, bleak film, yet not a joyless one. There is humor here, often of the dark variety, but even among the dark and desolate world we find ourselves, we still see the moving story of a man becoming a father figure to a young girl, and his struggle to protect her from a world that is cruel and painful. To emphasis this, Mangold uses the explosions of brutal, hack-and-slash violence to drive the narrative, and never indulges in over-abundant gore, or lurid imagery. This is a film very much about the consequences of a life of violence, and so each violent act is given the brutality and gristly punch that it warrants. Also, Mangold constructs excellently crafted action sequences, that flow smoothly and with a visceral thrill, executing them just as well as he does the quiet, intimate character building moments, which range from bittersweet to warmhearted to tear jerking. All of which Mangold helms with confidence and poise, creating a truly impactful and satisfying film.

At the center, and carrying the film on his shoulders with the full strength of a true pro, is Hugh Jackman, in what is likely his final bow as the character he helped define. Throughout, Jackman perfectly captures Logan's embittered, world weary sadness and anger at the world, channeled through his grizzled, bearded visage. He plays the role with nuance and power, having finally found the project that allows him to not only give us some incredible Wolverine action, but a story worthy of such a legendary character, and to provide a perfect send-off.

The rest of the cast are all universally excellent. Dafne Keen is a revelation as Laura, a young girl who holds a unique connection to Logan, and becomes his surrogate daughter. In a performance that is minimal on dialogue, Keen is able to express a wide range of perfectly naturalistic emotions, and show an intensity well beyond her years, and her relationship with Logan, which goes from strained to father-daughter, forms the true heart of the film, and helps make the ending that much more powerful. Patrick Stewart gives his role of Charles Xavier one final, beautifully bittersweet hurrah, showing Charles now as a withering old man, who still, despite the on-set of dementia, and the fall of his beloved X-Men, remains a truly noble and good person, who provides a voice to Logan's conscious. It's triple-A acting from Stewart, a fine craftsman of an actor if there ever was one.

The rest of the cast all do excellent work as well. Stephen Merchant's Caliban is a meek, yet noble compliment to Logan's embittered ruggedness, while Boyd Holbrook's Donald Pierce is a classic Black Hat who stepped right out of one of the classic westerns this film frequently homages, and the ever reliable Richard E. Grant's brief yet memorable role as the cold hearted Dr. Zander Rice is an excellently subtle villain. All in all, the acting is universally top notch, which is such a wonderful thing to say about a franchise long since dominated by phoned in or underwhelming performances.

Marco Beltrami's intense, epic score serves as a propulsive undercurrent to the film's gritty western aesthetic, while John Mathieson's stark cinematography serves to heighten the gritty, down-in-the-dirt nature of the film, without losing the sense of larger than life scope inherent to the genre.

But really, the best part about this film is it's dedication to telling it's own, entirely self contained story. Yes, there are references to vague X-Men adventures of the past, but in eschewing a preoccupation with continuity or fan-service, Mangold gives us the Wolverine film we've always wanted, and serves as a powerful, stunning send-off to a truly legendary character.

Logan stands as easily one of the best superhero films ever made, and one of the best films of the year.

5 out of 5 stars.