Slow West – A wonderful, Western parable
Written and directed by: John Maclean
John Maclean (The Beta Band) wrote one of my favorite songs of all time. The song was entitled “Dry the Rain” and I first heard it while watching “High Fidelity”. While a cocky Rob (John Cusack) states, after a customer tells him the song is good, “I know.”, I was thinking “Hell yeah it is!”. Well now, that song’s writer is trying his hand at movies. His first feature film is a Western called “Slow West”, and going in was one of the more intriguing films I have seen in a while.
The movie starts out in the 19th century, Colorado wilderness. Jay (Smit-McPhee) is a young Scottish lad who is traveling alone through the unforgiving terrain, in search of his lost love Rose (Pistorius). Rose and her father (McCann) fled Scotland for the Americas, after the murder of Jay’s Uncle (a murder for which Jay feels wholly responsible).
Alone, afraid, and seemingly without a hint of any survival skills Jay needs a traveling companion/protector in the worst way. Enter Silas (Fassbender). A bad ass rebel of a cowboy, he is exactly the type of “Brute” Jay needs to get to his love alive. Unfortunately, there is a huge bounty on said love’s head… and Silas knows about it.
Initially, the two begin a friendship out of mutual need for one another. Slowly though, they begin to admire the strengths in each other and form what is seemingly a strong bond. The only question, for the viewer, is whether or not Silas is even half trustworthy. After an encounter with Silas’ ex-partner in crime (played by a wonderfully sadistic Ben Mendelsohn, looking like the human version of the big bad wolf) the tension begins to mount. The closer they get to finding Rose, the more imminent the coming explosion of violence.
“Slow West” is as complete a film as I have ever seen in the Western genre. Parts will move a bit slowly for some, but I promise you the wait is worth the reward. The final act is as masterful and ending as you will see in the genre. Brilliant acting is present in every scene of the film. That is especially true of Smit-McPhee who more than measures up to his older, more experienced co-stars. Multiple times throughout the movie, I found myself thinking “Man this kid is impressive”. When you are thinking that, with Michael Fassbender as his opposite, you know you have something special. “Slow West” is yet another debut film that has blown me away, and I am absolutely thrilled to see what Mr. Maclean does next.