Slow West

Slow West

(2015)

Wanted dead or dead.

Sundance-winning western, the feature debut from writer-director John Maclean. Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) is the mysterious companion of a teenager (Kodi Smit-McPhee, Let Me In) as they traverse 19th century frontier America in search of the young man’s long-lost love. The film was shot in the New Zealand town of Twizel, Canterbury.... More

"Jay (Smit-McPhee) is a lovelorn 17-year-old Scottish aristocrat who travels to the American West at the close of the 19th century to track down his former lover. Confronted with the harsh realities of the frontier, he falls in with a rough and mysterious traveller named Silas (Fassbender), who soon discovers that the focus of Jay’s affection has a price on her head. Together, the two navigate a vast, untamed wilderness while attempting to stay one step ahead of a bloodthirsty posse and colourful bounty hunter. Their search leads to a bloody confrontation where Jay’s romanticism is the first of many casualties." (Sundance Film Festival)

Maclean, who was also a musician for The Beta Band and The Aliens, co-wrote a few of the songs on the film's soundtrack. "I wanted to use music in the same way as a film like Deliverance did," Maclean explains. "I was hoping if I put enough music in it, I wouldn’t have to put any music on it.”Hide

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Flicks Review

The title Slow West might have you worried that you’re in for a long, boring, pretentious Western. Thankfully, writer-director John Maclean’s striking feature debut is the opposite kind of Western – it’s refreshingly concise, running shy of 90 minutes; it’s cleverly paced, using quieter scenes to elevate the impactful ones; and it’s uncompromisingly intelligent, never once turning into pompous art-wank.... More

Michael Fassbender is effortlessly sly as experienced bounty hunter Silas, caught in a time where such killers are becoming irrelevant in the American Frontier. When he comes across hopeless romantic Jay Cavendish, whose dangly innocence is played on point by Kodi Smit-McPhee, Silas helps the Scottish teen find his lost “true love” (for a fee).

The situation forces naïve Jay to adapt quickly to this decaying West, tormenting him with stirring and sudden confrontations while backhanding him with lighter moments of hilarious douchebaggery. This fine mix of dry tension and black humour is difficult to target, but Slow West hits the mark with Coen brothers-like precision.

Cinematographer Robbie Ryan (Philomena, Fish Tank) has shot this film beautifully. New Zealand’s Mackenzie High Country convinces as a 19th Century America escaping the Wild West era, providing a landscape that dances from futile to fertile. It’s the perfect look for a movie about Darwinism, where the hand of natural selection hovers above its numerous characters. When the final fingers drop, we’re left with one of the most thoughtful, witty, satisfying Westerns of the last decade.Hide


The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 30 ratings, 15 reviews
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BY Ken-Burns superstar

But didn't get it. Not convinced it's a hit or underrated gem


BY Red superstar

Granted I had high expectations but I didn't get into this. Wasn't weird enough or straight enough. I was even bored in the first half, does have a good ending though. I love Ben Mendelsohn but thought he was wasted, and Fassbender and Smit-McPhee were fine but not strong.

As a side note on the scenery, I couldn't get it out of my head that it was NZ. I don't think it looked like American West - but maybe it was just because I knew it wasn't before hand. Interested if anyone else thought so...


This movie is everything the title suggests .... though not really! Yes, the pace is somewhat Slow (meandering maybe a better description) for the most part, it isn't slow in the boring sense. And while it is set in the old West, it isn't actually with the scenery being very much (and sometimes slightly disconcertingly so) that of NZ. Not likely to win any major awards, but good performances and enough depth to make it entertaining.


I enjoyed this movie and so did my wife even though she is not into Westerns. My only gripe was the opening stated it was 1870 "to be precise", and the handguns they all carried did not come out until 1873. But that's being nit-picky. Good story line and some humour to boot. Great also to see the NZ scenery and actors sprinkled throughout.


BY CliffyB nobody

Loved it ! Great characters and story - beautifully shot. Gritty with some dark comedy moments. Well done Rachel Gardner and crew !


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The Press Reviews

87% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • Like any good Western, Slow West percolates with the constant threat of violence, but debuting feature director John Maclean wrings the genre for its mythic value. Full Review

  • An absurdist deconstruction of classic Hollywood westerns whose 21st-century view of frontier mythology is as sardonic as that of the Coen brothers. Full Review

  • A western fable with an often dreamlike vibe... proves to be a surprisingly sly tale of passion, greed and survival. Full Review

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