'Slow West' is a Movie of Intrigue That Harnesses a Handsome Tale from the Old West
Slow West is a minor-Western that boasts an off-beat creative in its approach and harnesses a straightforward narrative that plays handsomely within the Old West. It doesn’t invent or try to conceive a new style of Western, rather punctuate and play homage to pioneers such as Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) and John Ford (The Searchers).
isn't ashamed of its bloodshed
Starring Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) and Kodi Smith-McPhee (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Slow West follows the story of 16-year-old Jay Cavendish (Smit-McPhee) as he journeys across the American frontier at the end of the 19th century, in search of the woman he loves. Along the way he is joined by Silas (Fassbender), a mysterious traveller with his own agenda, and is hotly pursued by an outlaw named Payne (Ben Mendelsohn).
First-time feature filmmaker John Maclean beats to his own drum: Slow West is in no hurry to disclose its yarn. Maclean revolves the story around beautiful shots of great delicacy that play impeccably against shocking violence, creating an juxtaposition for which the story can breathe around. What stood out most for me was the ending of Slow West. It revisits every killing that took place throughout its duration in a silent montage that proves Slow West isn’t hesistant of its bloodshed. The use of silence as a cinematic technique is a tricky method to master, and within today’s cinema, it’s never quite used in the correct manor. Silence should be used as a numbing effect, an accession for it being the central dramatic pulse of a scene. In terms of Slow West, director Maclean uses silence to accent the religious slaughter that has taken place.
expertly executed lead performances
The whimsical dialogue adds great dimension to certain scenes. It offers up splashes of wit and intellect that greatly enchances viewing pleasure. But the screenplay doesn’t rely on these sparse moments of humour to negate the film in a certain direction. Rather, these moments are used as a tool to add insult to injury to whatever character deserves it.
Fassbender’s ability as an actor works perfectly in this environment with his experiences of working with directors like Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood clearly rubbing off on him. Smit-McPhee plays a character with a hidden agenda thats sprinkled with a youthful bashfulness adding a gratifying dynamic to his relationship with Fassbender's Silas. In movies such as these you need a first-rate villain, and thats what Mendelsohn offers. He’s a menace who brings his own brand of villainy to the table.
Slow West can, at times, drag its heals over the course of its vigorous 84 minute run time with its narrative focus wanders off on certain occasions. However, when in sharp focus it delivers is a tale of intrigue, violence and two perfectly executed lead performances.