Slow West Film Review

Film Review by Jarred Tito
Slow West

The Premise
'Slow West' follows a 16-year-old boy on a journey across 19th Century frontier America in search of the woman he loves, while accompanied by mysterious traveler Silas.

The Review
Well the title, ‘Slow West’ is a very appropriate name for this film for several reasons but for me the most apt reason would have to be because of the slow, drawn out pace. It’s made in a similar style of a Sergio Leone film with long scenes, minimal dialogue and lingering moments of silence. There are also the gritty and dusty landscape clichés which are standard backdrops for an untamed west where ‘wanted’ posters, tumble weed and half-baked saloons are right at home. If you are familiar with any of the Sergio classics such as, ‘Once Upon a time in the West’ starring Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson or ‘The Good the Bad and the Ugly’ with Clint Eastwood then you’ll have some idea of what I’m talking about…the re-invention of the Spaghetti Western…minus the spaghetti because this one is shot right here in God’s own, New Zealand.

My understanding was that they shot a series of westerns in Spain and Italy to save on budget costs and I get the feeling that the same strategy applied to this film. This film takes advantage of the South Island’s many natural beauties and wonders including the southern alpines, with snow tops, and vast amounts of thistles and gorse. I’m not quite sure if that’s how I pictured the Wild West but then again I suppose the Scotts took the thistles to the American West too…but before they settled it? Oh well at least they have the Rocky Mountains which do look a little like the Southern Alps, right? Well if it was good enough for Middle Earth why not the Wild West? Back to pace and the spaghetti and the story.

I’m not sure if this is a story about a young British boy (Kodi Smith-McPhee) and his pursuit of true love, a young woman (Caren Pistorius) wrongfully accused of murder who flees England to start a fresh in the New World… or a story about Silas, an ex-outlaw come bounty hunter (Michael Fassbender), who befriends the young boy helping him track down his love? But one thing is for sure, Michael Fassbender is the one part of the whole story that is worth seeing. If you know who Fassbender is and you also know who Burt Lancaster is, then you may understand what I mean when I say that the two are almost mirror images of each other both in looks but more importantly in film presence. Fassbender plays his character with the same integrity and convection that reminds me so much of Burt Lancaster, who was one of Hollywood’s greats. Silas (Fassbender) is a good yet bad, sincere yet rogue hero figure that sees a way of making a couple thousand dollars by offering to help a very naïve boy find his missing girlfriend.

Fassbender (Silas) delivers the much needed back bone and grit that this film so desperately needs, providing most of the tension, mystery, subtext and action. He plays the man’s man role perfectly which took me back to the days of the classic western. And with his uncanny resemblance to Lancaster, I would like to think and hope that he has a big future in Hollywood or anywhere in the big silver screen. Perhaps Hollywood has finally found a successor to Eastwood, Brando, McQueen and the likes? Now there are other moments with the other actors, for example, Pistorius plays her role well too. I’m just not sure that her character was developed enough or any of the others, for that matter, which did leave the whole story at a loose end. 
The Verdict
I did enjoy this movie so far as to say that I didn’t dislike it. I watched with interest but not with excitement. I was amused but not swept away. There were a couple of corny moments that you’ll have to take with a ‘pinch of salt’. They may even momentarily take you out of the story? Overall, not quite a Sergio classic and not yet in the same playing field as Eastwood’s ‘Unforgiven’, which I suspect was the bench mark, but not a bad way to spend a few hours. The main positive for me was seeing Michael Fassbender who has a brilliant performance as Silas.

The Trailer
The Info
Releases: 21st May 2015
Rating: R13 – Contains Violence & offensive language
Duration: 83 minutes 
Genre:  Western
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rory McCann, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Director: John Maclean (Debut Feature Film)

The Extras