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Slow West – Review


Release Date: 16 April 2015 [USA]
Director: John Maclean
Writer: John Maclean
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee - Michael Fassbender - Ben Mendelsohn



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Posted July 2, 2015 by

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Slow West Review:

In this interesting take on a genre as old as cinema itself, John Maclean makes a very memorable first impression as a feature film director. Slow West has 16 year old Scottish highborn Jay Cavendish leave his native land to find his far flung love Rose Ross (Caren Pistorious), now living with her father on the grand plains of Colorado.

On his way he encounters drifting guide Silas (Michael Fassbender) who rather forcefully offers his assistance (plus charges of course). However, Silas’ reasons for helping young Jay may be more sinister than he lets on.

Slow West is a gorgeous film. While the Scottish settings are the real thing, New Zealand stands in for the American West (A Western set in Middle Earth? Shut up and take my money). While many frames are paintings, many are also imbued with a Wes Anderson-esque charm and awkwardness (a gang of trigger happy outlaws popping up and down in a barley field like whack-a-moles has Anderson written all over it).

The colour is dazzling for a Western. The American landscapes show off canary yellow and baby blue in blazing sunlight. Scotland is the polar opposite with overcast skies and a muted palette. In leaving Scotland, you’ll think Jay had wandered through the wardrobe to Narnia.

The story is told visually and the dialogue is disciplined, stepping in only when it’s time to shine. The script is quality over quantity, witty and easy on the expo.

Tonally, the movie walks a tightrope between comedy and horror when it comes to violence. The black humour feels like a great blend of the brothers Coen and McDonagh (One scene involving salt and a most glaringly obvious metaphor made me laugh out loud).

Kodi Smit-McPhee as Jay Cavendish is stupidly innocent. His Scottish accent is hinted at rather than tackled full on. Jay marvels at the amazing American vistas and happily engages in conversation with French African musicians and German anthropologists.

His travelling companion Silas ain’t so approachable. Michael Fassbender looks downright sinister with a bandana pulled up to his eyes and wielding a six-shooter. It’s Silas who narrates the story at times but thankfully this is kept to a minimum. He enjoys some of the movie’s best lines, “Wearing a dress don’t make her a lady”, being particularly good. But Ben Mendelsohn gets the winner.

“Kill that house!” Ben’s bounty hunter Payne yells to his posse at the movie’s end. While Mendelsohn’s screen time is rather small, he fills every moment he has, quite literally with the biggest fur coat you’ve ever seen. Like his role in Animal Kingdom showed, just having his character speak to another is panic inducing. He always seems on the edge of a homicidal outburst.

Slow West is beautiful, fantastical, funny, tragic, innocent and violent. John Maclean has pulled great yet simple performances from his cast and painted a fine moving picture. Here’s hoping there is more to come from this fresh director.


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Written by:


Michael Keyes
Silences Band
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