Slow West (18)
Directed by: John Maclean
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, & Ben Mendelsohn
Running time: 84mins
Roswell, World War II, the Cold War, Vietnam and horror movies rang the death-bell of the Western. Can it ever be rediscovered? Think of modern attempts at the Western and you’ll come up with leading stars perverting their CVs with terrible cinema. Some films are too big for their DMs, others swell their Stetsons; Slow West fits just right.
Director John MaClean has made a movie I can’t believe I’m watching in an independent movie theatre.
Slow, yes, slow is the name of the game here. We find ourselves following the plight of Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a teenage Scot in love with the mysterious Rose (Caren Pistorius). Picked up struggling his way through the western 1870s’ frontier and savage ravaged Colorado; in steps his saviour: Silas (Fassbender). We soon learn there’s a motive to Silas’s kindly contribution: Money. No-one chaperones for free… nothing is free in the wild-wild-west except death and, to quote the taut script in which we’re given the glorious line: “No sense being dead if no one knows you’re dead.” The film is struck with lines like “the shaking of the soul like a rattler’s warning”. Gorgeous fatigue, melancholy, hope and paranoia leaves the viewer with a gentle ride, cheese-wire roller-coaster.
Silas plays the heart of the film. Fastbender is a double-crossing independent surviving on nothing but his wits. Even when he loses his gun to a torrent of a river he exudes hope and security to young, dumb and full of love, Jay. Fastbender is also crucial to many of the comic moments on show here. Jagged little one-liners break through the monotony and at only one hour and 24 minutes long, this brief look at an outdoor man’s life slowly ambushes whatever distrust is to be found in his character. Don’t expect Hollywood teeth or a romantic turn when watching; yes, some clichés can be found – canned meat; dirty shirts; talks by the campfire and many other stereotypes are plentiful – but, some things always ring true.
Everyone smokes in this movie; cigar being the order of the day. Smokers seem to bring trouble on themselves, and this neat little film brings moments of intimacy and highly volatile action that’ll leave you wanting the simple life of call centres, shopping centres and train time-tables to be left behind. We all secretly or overtly desire the frontier mentality. Some go paint-balling, some head of to the East, others travel Route 66. But the real marvel of this movie is not the lovingly moving script, nor the acting, fire fights or nostalgia, but the feeling of slowly travelling, both geographical and psychological, through nowhere.
I won’t assure you that this will be the best film you’ll see this year. I won’t scream from the rooftops either, but I can say that this is a fantastic piece of cinema. Gorgeous wide-screen stalls on Colorado’s Rocky Mountains; claustrophobic forest nightmares and a smiling score combining the clip-clop of a horse on the move and the strength strangling lulls of the unknown and beyond.
The ending? Well, why not find out yourself? It’s less than seven quid and right on your doorstep. Go have a great hour and a half.
4 out of 5 Nerds