Slow West Liam-Maguren'S 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.

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.