Film Review: Slow West (John Maclean, 2015) ★★★★

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It's 1870 and a 16-year old hopeless romantic, Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has journeyed from the cliffs of Scotland to the heart of Colorado in search of his love, Rose, and her father. Unaware of the bounty on the head of his beloved, and naive to the dangers of the wild west, outlaw Silas (Michael Fassbender) agrees to chaperone his quest but with an agenda of his own. 

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The film opens to a young dreamer, Jay as he gazes at the stars. Wasting no time in kick-starting our story, he soon meets a rogue and hardened outlaw, Silas. Seeing how poorly equipped Jay is for the turbulent conditions, he offers his services to secure Jay safe passage to Rose who is a wanted woman. On their travels, Silas learns of Jay's story and his reason for heading west, realising that Jay is oblivious to the bounty on his girlfriend's head. However, Silas knows all too well of the $2000 reward and it seems their meeting was not so coincidental. Despite their differences, the two soon form a loose but present bond as they come up against fellow outlaws and bounty hunters also in search of Rose and her father.

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Fassbender stars as a cool-under-pressure outlaw who gets by anyway that he can. Orphaned from a young age, he had no choice but to join a gang who taught him the dangers of the west. Giving yet another stella performance, Fassbender brings a great level of charisma and charm to the narrative. Whilst Michael Fassbender is a large part of the film's success, he is not the only reason. Filmed on a micro-budget in New Zealand and directed by rookie, John Maclean (known for Man on a Motorcycle (2009), shot on a phone and also starring Michael Fassbender), Slow West is beautiful. Channeling Coen Brothers' True Grit (2010) and traces of inspiration from Wes Anderson, each shot is visually stunning. Maclean, a scot like Jay, brings a fresh perspective to the Wild West, portraying Africans, Native Americans, the Swedish and the Irish immigrants in a unique and captivating way.

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Much like The Coen Brothers also, Slow West features a great deal of gallows humour. From the opening scene, subtle reminders and Silas' narration set the scene of horrendous conditions in which any man will kill for a can of beans and a blanket - yet there is comic relief. Somehow, Maclean manages to make light of their trials and tribulations on the road to their fugitives whilst maintaining the suspense of the story. 

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Innocence is a core theme and this is embodied by Jay's character. Aged only 16 years old, thin and almost frail-looking in comparison to his body-guard, Silas, he is hopeful that he will find Rose, oblivious to the constant dangers of gun-slinging gangs or the situation she and her father have found themselves in. This is shown also in the loss of innocence of their surroundings as they pass through burnt down Indian villages and outlaws who corrupt the land out of desperation to survive. More prominent is that innocence is a danger within itself as Silas has to save Jay from scrape to scrape when his naivety gets the best of him, reminding us that he is a child who is only dressed as a man. 

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Visually stunning, with wonderful performances from all cast members and a refreshing take on it's genre, Slow West is a beautiful piece of independent cinema. A work of rare purity, Slow West gets a Sophie star rating of 4 out of 5 stars and a huge thumbs up from me.  I truly hope you guys get a chance to see this if you can. It's only showing at few, selected cinemas but worth hunting down. It's one of those films that I urge people to see and get excited to share so hope you like it if you get a chance to see it. 

Have you seen Slow West? What's your favourite Western or Michael Fassbender film? I'm so glad I got a chance to see this while it's still showing. Michael Fassbender is such a favourite of mine, for so many reasons...just look at that face. Hope everyone is having a great week so far despite the unbearable heat we're having at the moment! I can't stand it. 

Stay cool and until next time film fans, 


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12 comments:

  1. As you already know, I LOVED this film! I just watched it last night (it's available to rent on Amazon already!) I go bananas over beautifully shot films, and this one was simply gorgeous. My heart is full of love for heartbreaking stories, which is another reason I really enjoyed Slow West. Having said that, my hands down favorite Fassy film is Shame. Also...Fish Tank!

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    1. I'm so glad someone else has seen it. It's a brilliant film! Is it really? I wonder if it's available in the UK! Yeah he's amazing in everything he does! Frank is another excellent one of his xx

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  2. Thanks for reviewing this, Sophie! I'm a Fassbender fan also. I really liked him in Frank (2014) and Shame (I also liked Carey Mulligan in that one) so I'll make time to see this. My favorite independent western is Dead Man (1995) with Johnny Depp and directed by Jim Jarmusch. There is a native american character named 'Nobody' that makes that film special. Another favorite western is The Outlaw Josie Wales (1976) which is about looking for redemption while being hunted. There are southern heritage issues in that film which I've thought about as we move toward removing the Confederate flag from government areas in the US.

    I hope you've had a lovely weekend, Sophie! Sorry to hear about the excessive heat. How was your time in Bristol? I saw your street art pics on instagram.

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    1. Ah yes, if you like those then you'll love Slow West. Michael Fassbender is so amazing, I hope you get a chance to see it. I heard you can get it on Amazon in the USA :) Yeah the heat is pretty awful but Bristol was awesome, thank you. Will be posting a photo diary of it soon :) x

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  3. I love Michael Fassbender! I loved him in X-Men and Prometheus :) Another great review XD

    Sara x

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    1. Yeah he's pretty much awesome in everything. Inglorious Basterds was a big one too. God I love him x

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  4. I can't wait for this to come over to the US. I love Michael Fassbender and I'm interested to see John Maclean as a director originally coming from a music background. It looks great, wonderful review as always. You have a fantastic style of writing. My favorite Fassbender performance is in 12 Years a Slave and Eden Lake :)

    Ashley x
    imamovienerd.wordpress.com

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    1. I really hope you get a chance to see it! It's brilliant, I think you'd really enjoy it. Thanks so much for the kind words - really appreciate it from a fellow film blogger! x

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  5. I haven't seen this film advertised anywhere but it looks really good! Where is it showing? I'm rubbish at finding films like this to watch so thanks for reviewing! Michael Fassbender looks pretty good as a cowboy

    xxAimeexx

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    1. Yeah it's only really showing in art house/independent cinemas. It's worth seeing if you get a chance though! The Fassbender is certainly easy on the eyes! X

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  6. Nice review, hope you had a good weekend 8)

    Holly x

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