Director: John Maclean
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee,
Release: June 26 2015
Review Author: Tony
Rating: 4/5 cans of Guinness
Every year we stumble upon a film which manages to stay under our radar yet blow us away and leave us in disbelief at how we knew nothing of it, Slow West is exactly that film for me. I only discovered this film by searching for Michael Fassbender’s filmography for this year (He is one of my favourite modern actors and the whole fellow Irishman thing helps too). What I’m trying to say is that thanks to my man crush on Michael Fassbender I found this gem of a film.
Stephen Spielberg made the recent comment “We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western. It doesn’t mean there won’t be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns.” Of course he’s stating that the current dominant run of the superhero genre will eventually fizzle out much like westerns did in the 60’s, or was that the 70’s, nope must have been the 80’s yeah definitely the 80’s……shit the 90’s had Unforgiven and dances with wolves. I have to disagree as the Western has never truly died but rather seems to have evolved over the last few decades and has not only survived but in recent years but has actually thrived with films such as Django Unchained, True Grit and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
I would agree that westerns have passed their golden age as being the biggest pull at the box office but they seem to now have adapted due to the flexible nature of the genre that allows for diverse narratives relative to that period in time. Slow West is a rather unique take on the genre as it features little of the common stereotypes of the genre such as seeking out revenge, a cat and mouse chase or even have the redundant theme of the West is dying crammed down our throat. Instead Slow West tells a fairly linear story with well written characters set to a beautiful backdrop.
The story follows Jay Cavendish a young man of noble class from Scotland who travels through the harsh lands of the Wild West in search of his love, Ross Rose. Jay soon finds that his dummies guide to the West book isn’t all that reliable and teams up with hardened bounty hunter Silas Selleck. However Silas may have ulterior motives and with a band of outlaws on their tail they must stick together in order to find Rose.
Kodi Smit-McPhee at 19 years of age has starred in some truly brilliant pictures such as The Road, Let Me In and my favourite film from 2014, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Mcphee plays Jay with a great open-mindedness but never allows Jay to be innocent, instead Jay is rather uninformed of his surrounding’s in this new world he has ventured to. Fassbender is great as Silas Selleck who only lives to survive and see’s the New World as a harsh and unforgiving place. Both actors have great chemistry and are not afraid to question each other’s ideologies and motives.
Slow West is a beautiful to look at with plenty of colour and contrast to feed the eyes. The West has never looked so dead and alive which was a reoccurring juxtaposition I noted during the film as colourful flora and fauna grow among dried up rocky and rough terrain. Director John Maclean makes the most of the New Zealand landscape where he shot the film.
Westerns have been a staple of my childhood as my parents used to let me stay up late to watch Clint Eastwood classics such as For a Few Dollars more and A Fistful of Dollars. I remember vividly the time my older cousin furiously insisted that I don’t blink during the opening scene of Once Upon a Time in the West in case I missed it forcing him to rewind the VHS. I have enjoyed the evolution of the smaller scale western like The Proposition and 3:10 to Yuma which tell a more adult narrative in rather lawless times. Slow West is a great entry to the genre which I would highly recommend and is also a great debut by director John Maclean who shows he has the capability to hopefully take on larger projects in the future.