Directed by John Maclean
In the Old West, a 17-year-old Scottish boy teams up with a mysterious gunman to find the woman with whom he is infatuated.
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★★★★½ review by JΔΣΞS Β on Letterboxd
Slow West is like if Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and Jim Jarmusch bore a love child in New Zealand, then raised it in old west Colorado, with the life expectancy of a kiddie film's runtime. (And I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.)
Discussed in full on episode #139 of theCinereelists podcast.
★★★★½ review by SilentDawn on Letterboxd
A monumental showcase for a major directorial talent; John Maclean's Slow West weaves through multiple odd flourishes of tone but never sidelines its dazzling sense of melancholy. Full of strange humor, sizzling tension, gleeful lyricism, and beautiful landscapes; Slow West is paced like a poetic sunset existing within a savage world. Violence tumbles right along with humorous misery and elegant menace, and the entire story, while deliberately told, oozes uncertainty. Every cast member owns their share of screen-time, and whenever Michael Fassbender and Ben Mendelsohn are talking to one another, the film crackles with darkened vibrancy and singular energy.
Basically, this film has stolen my desperado-ridden heart. Truly one of the great modern westerns and a fabulous exploration of an untamed land; Slow West is a vivid blast.
★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd
“Kill that house!” A man draped in furs stands in the middle of an endless wheat field and commands his ragtag posse of killers to lay waste to the only home in sight. What follows is one of the greatest shoot-outs this side of Sergio Leone, violently punctuating a fable about a place so preoccupied with survival that no one in it can afford to take a hand off their holster.
★★★★ review by Esteban Gonzalez on Letterboxd
“A jack rabbit in a den of wolves.“
After their collaboration together in two short films, John Maclean and Michael Fassbender team up for the director’s feature debut in this originally fresh take on the Western genre. In Slow West we get a different glimpse of the West, avoiding the typical Americana style confrontation between cowboys and indians. Here we are introduced to a world where immigrants are trying to force their way through this lawless land. Surviving in this place has nothing to do with how well of a shot you are, it’s more about luck and being at the right place at the right time. The story, which was written by Maclean, follows the journey of a 16 year old boy named Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who has traveled from Scotland to the West in search of Rose (Caren Pistorius), the woman he’s in love with. Along with her father, John (Rory McCann), they had to flee from Scotland after an incident with Jay’s father. Jay is clueless about the West, but determined. He runs into a former bounty hunter named, Silas (Michael Fassbender) who offers his service as his chaperon realizing he will need protection if he wants to survive in this place. What Jay doesn’t know however is that there is a bounty for Rose and her father, and there are many people interested in collecting the reward. Among them there is the eccentric Payne (Ben Mendelsohn) who is an old acquaintance of Silas.
What the film does extremely well in Slow West is balance the western genre with a dry sense of humor. There are plenty of surprisingly funny moments in this film that help build the story. Through a series of fortunate (and misfortunate) events we follow these characters through their journey. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Michael Fassbender share strong chemistry together and keep us hooked during the slowly paced scene. There is a memorable scene that takes place in a store/bar during the first half of the film and a fantastic final shoot out at the end, which stands out from most Westerns. The film has a unique taste to it and some interesting characters, but the gorgeous cinematography is what stands out in this immense landscape. It’s only 84 minutes long, but it is a perfect fit for this movie which ends in memorable fashion. It took its time to grow on me, but the more I think about it the more I end up liking this film. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Western genre, and adding Michael Fassbender to that mix only makes this an even more rewarding experience.
Slow West is stylish and uses its gorgeous landscape very well (it was actually filmed in New Zealand), but it also includes a dreamy atmosphere and plenty of humor. There is a scene during the beginning of the film where Jay is looking at the night stars and pointing his gun towards them and as he imaginarily shoots at them, they light up. There are plenty of dreamy sequences like this one, but there is also plenty of dry humor as well. There is a narration over a camp fire about an outlaw who wants his very own wanted poster. Ben Mendelsohn’s eccentric coat is also a feast for the eyes which adds its comedic touch. Slow West has a great cast and it is a film worth recommending.
★★★½ review by CinemaClown on Letterboxd
Splendidly photographed, methodically paced & brilliantly directed, Slow West arrives as a pleasant surprise in the genre of westerns for it features a very straightforward premise but beneath that simple-looking plot lies hordes of themes that one usually associates with the legacy of the Wild West and for a debut feature, it's a pretty solid final product.
Set in the 1870s, the story of Slow West follows a young Scottish fellow who travels across America in pursuit of the woman he loves and after an unexpected incident, finds himself in the company of a bounty hunter who's willing to take him to his destination. As they further head into the West, it soon becomes clear that both of them are looking for the same thing but for different reasons.
Written & directed by John Maclean, Slow West marks his filmmaking debut and there's no denying that it's a very impressive start to his career. Maclean's work exhibits a restrained, careful & patient approach in handling the scripted material and despite the simple setting, his subtle addressing of the American West themes offers some nice food for thought. And it's gonna be interesting to see where he journeys from here.
The exotic, lush locations of New Zealand stand in for the American West and is exquisitely photographed by its precisely-controlled camera. Its colourful surroundings are beautifully captured and its fab use of bright colour tones only adds greater enhancements to those images. Its 84 minutes of runtime is deliberately slowed down to provide a more immersive experience, and finally, the background score stays in congruence with the unfolding action.
Coming to the performances, Slow West features a fine cast in Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorius & Rory McCann, and all do an adequate job in their given roles. Smit-McPhee is still unable to express any other emotion than the ever-afraid one which at times suited his character here, Fassbender is the real deal and does a terrific job with what he's given, and the input from the rest of its cast is good enough.
On an overall scale, Slow West is definitely amongst the better indie films released this year and begins Maclean's filmmaking career on a promising note. Crafted with care, composure & precision craftsmanship, smeared with wry sense of humour, even more augmented by its gorgeous backgrounds & ingenious use of camera, carried by an assured performance from Fassbender, and succeeding as a rich, refreshing & riveting example of its genre, Slow West is a surprising delight for western aficionados.
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