The outlaw ways of the Old West have been brought back to the big screen with grit, originality and and a slight touch of wimzy quirkiness by director John Maclean in his directorial debut Slow West.
The film tells the story of sixteen-year-old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as he travels from Scotland to Colorado in pursuit of his lost love. He is quickly confronted by the dangers of the Frontier and teams up with a mysterious traveller named Silas (Michael Fassbender), who agrees to protect him – for a price. Jay’s quest will be one of double-crossing, violence and peril as the guileless adolescent learns that the West takes no pity, least of all on the innocent.
Headed Out West
Slow West is a Western movie, unlike anything you’ve seen before on screen. From its first frame the film is packed with originality, and a non-traditional approach to what some view as an unwavering genre. Maclean, a first time director, takes the Western genre and completely reinvents it with his tale of a lovelorn young man Jay Cavendish. While most western heroes might finds themselves growing and adapting to their new environments, Jay never quite overcomes the perils of the untamed Colorado scape. Maclean’s non-traditional approach to his quirky story applies to every aspect of the film, from its script to the high-paced, and kinetic action scenes, as well as his decision to shoot the film in New Zealand to recreate the constantly changing environment of an untamed Colorado, from wooded forests to the high plains.
A genius script deserves a talented cast, and Maclean lucked out with a group of Hollywood’s biggest game-changers. Leading the pack is Michael Fassbender in the role of outlaw gunfighter Silas, a man of few words who agrees to safeguard Jay in his journey to find Rose, and who along the way takes the time to attempt to toughen Jay. Kodi Smit-McPhee is totally transformative as the overly romantic, and aristocratic Jay Cavendish who is willing to risk everything for love. Playing off against them in adversarial form is Ben Mendolsohn as Payne, a bounty hunter, and former acquaintance of Silas, who has a certain crazed quirkiness that makes him an oddball threat. Caren Pistorius makes a big impression as the object of Jay’s desire, Rose Ross, who goes from meek serving girl to a fully capable gun-toting frontierswomen, while the towering Rory McCann plays her stoic, but loving father John.
Maclean gives every single character in Slow West ample screentime, and the space to make an impression on the audience, as well as presenting and paying homage to the classic Western archtypes with a brand new twist. Fassbender represents the outlaw gunfighter, and untamed western loner, while the characters of Jay and Rose represent Maclean’s biggest, and most clever change, with Jay becoming the ingenue, and Rose taking on the role of the transformed hero. Because of his expert direction, every single character makes a profound effect upon the audience, as seen in Brooke Williams’ turn as the frantic, and chaotic Swedish women Maria, in what is unquestionably the film’s most wild and uncontrolled scene.
Slow West is a fun, unique and thought-provoking film experience that sets out to challenge its audience with a fresh approach to a classic genre and announces the arrival of a major new talent to keep an eye out on. Slow West is destined to be the new fable of the western genre, and audiences will find themselves wanting to revisit its wild and untamed landscape again and again.