If the X-Men films are comic books, then Logan is a graphic novel. A dark, gritty, meaty, messy, bloody, violent and foul-mouthed graphic novel that pulls no punches and takes no prisoners. Wolverine slashes and stabs, severing limbs and slicing through skulls. Logan is brutal and powerful, emotional amd moving, and you have not seen a superhero film quite like this one before.
Logan is set in 2029. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) – aka Professor X – is now aged in his 90s. He's frail, aggressive, confused, suffering from dementia and having telepathic seizures. Losing the ability to control his powers, Charles is being cared for by Logan (Hugh Jackman) – aka Wolverine – in a desert hideout just over the Mexican border. Logan's aided by Caliban (Stephen Merchant), an albino mutant whose power is the ability to sense other mutants. The trio are in hiding, in a world where no new mutants have been born for a generation, and the rest have all-but disappeared – they've died out or been hunted to extinction. We don't know what has become of the rest of the X-Men, or why this trio has gone into hiding. Logan – also ageing and graying, walking with a limp, covered in scars and with his mutant superhealing powers waning – works as a limo driver, trying to make enough money to buy the medicines needed to keep Charles's powers in check and ultimately save enough to buy a boat on which they can spend the rest of their lives sailing the world. Wanting nothing more than a quiet life, Logan is reluctantly pulled back into action when he has to rescue a young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen) with powers of her own.
More of a western in look and feel than your usual CGI-laden superhero epic (there are no flying buildings, spaceships, time travel or apocalyptic global destruction here), Logan is an intimate character study, self contained and very self knowing – an X-Men comic book even makes an appearance, with Logan explaining to Laura that the reality of what they went through was much different to what is portrayed in its pages. "Maybe a quarter of it happened, and not like this,” he tells her. This is a world-weary Logan, full of anger age and not really prepared to take a young girl under his wing, but he's forced to when he and Charles have to go on the run to protect her, headed for North Dakota and a rumoured "Eden" safe-zone for mutants. Laura is one of a new breed – literally – of mutants, being developed in a lab by a multi-national pharmaceutical group led by the mysterious Dr Rice (Richard E Grant). With a set of adimantium claws much like Logan's, and a grumy demeanour to match, could Laura have been bred from Wolverine's DNA?
Logan is not really a superhero film; it's more a gritty drama that just happens to have superheroes in it. It all feels very grounded, and very real. It's the third film in the standalone Wolverine trilogy – after 2013’s very decent The Wolverine (also by writer-director Mangold and cowriter Scott Frank) and 2009’s so-so X-Men Origins: Wolverine – is far and away the best of the three (and arguably the best X-Men film to date as well). Mangold is no newcomer when it comes to western themes – he directed the 3:10 to Yuma remake in 2007, along with the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line in 2005 – and he brings all that experience to bear here. This is clearly the Wolverine film that Jackman has wanted to make for a long time, and he brings his A-game to the role. It's a driven, complex, sad, beaten, angry and multilayered Logan – a savage beast when he needs to be but also gentle and caring when required. Stewart has been playing Charles Xavier for 16 years now, bubt this is easily his finest performance in the role (and, Sgtewart has said, likely to be his last). Also great as Laura is Keen, in her first film outing. She spend mush of the film mute, relying on a look or an expression to convey her thoughts, and she gives an outstanding and important performance as the character who drives much of the plot. But when all is said and done, this is Jackman's film, a more-than fitting sendoff for a character he has lived with since the first X-Men film in 2000. If this really is the last time he'll be donning the sideburns and claws, then it's wonderful that he goes out on such a high.