Reviving and reimagining the traditional western, director John Maclean creates a mythical version of the Wild West that stuns with its beauty. Slow West follows a 16-year-old Scottish boy, Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee), on a journey across 19th century America in search of the girl he loves – Rose Ross, played by Caren Pistorius. Jay is accompanied by mysterious traveller Silas (Michael Fassbender) who protects him from the dangers he faces; soon it becomes clear that Silas is after Rose, too. There’s a prize for her head, making her the number one target for bounty hunters.
The film takes the clichéd story of a boy trying to save his sweetheart while running away from dangerous outlaws and gives it an original twist. Not only is the viewer not convinced if she is truly “his girl”, there’s a certain surreal, almost dreamy, filter attached to the whole story. For instance, Jay finds some time while crossing the dangerous west to discuss the universality of love with a group of musicians that he runs into in the middle of nowhere. This is where Slow West puts its characters into a more mythical, heart-wrenching and tragic version of the west we all know.
The cinematography is simply stunning, and the film is full of vibrant, colourful shots. Gone is the dusty setting of Leone’s western, in are the glorious, sharp scenes showcasing the beauty of the wilderness, resulting in a contemporary feel without compromising the mood of the film. That mood is quite innovative, too: Slow West manages to mix gory scenes of violence with some light humour. Even in sadness, Maclean shows there is hope, as lightness covers the screen even after the gloomiest of events.
Fassbender, in yet another great role, is utterly convincing as Silas – an anti-hero with questionable morals, a loner, an all-round survivor. Then there is Smit-McPhee, who perfectly conveys the sentimental naivety and romanticism of a young boy in love. The supporting cast is nothing short of great, including Rory McCann as Rose’s father, Ben Mendelsohn in a slightly comedic role as the head of a dangerous mob, and Pistorius, who brings beauty, gentleness and fearless strive for survival all together as young Rose.
Slow West is a masterfully crafted, beautifully shot western that’s well-acted from start to finish – a true cinematic masterpiece.
Slow West is released nationwide on 26th June 2015.
Watch the trailer for Slow West here: