Slow West (2015) [Review]


Slow West has brought together two of my favourite people; Michael Fassbender and Robbie Ryan. I could watch cinematographer Ryan’s work for hours (Catch Me Daddy, Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights), it’s effortlessly beautiful and elevates the film to another level. As for Fassbender? Where do you begin? Immensely talented, with an ever-growing impressive filmography, there would have to be a pretty solid reason as to why you wouldn’t be excited to see him team with Ryan again, this time in a Tarantino meets Coen Brothers styled Western.

Written and Directed by John Maclean, this is his feature-length debut and at only 90 minutes, it truly packs a punch. Dry humour, minimal dialogue, and a compelling albeit slightly implausible story, this tale is as simple as they come and is all the better for it. Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as Jay opposite Silas (Fassbender), a 16-year-old looking for a girl he is madly in love with who is living in exile somewhere out west. The Wild West is a treacherous place, and Silas offers to help him find “Rose”, as a rugged, no-nonsense veteran of the outdoors, he knows how to get him there in one-piece. This comes with a price, but what choice does Jay have?

They progress on their journey; crossing paths with all sorts that result in some unfavourable encounters that while are not significant in terms of the events themselves, they do help to shape our perceptions of the stubborn duo of Silas and Jay. Their motives are made clear from the beginning, but only to the audience and not to each other. It’s in knowing these factors, that the slow-building journey of gradually gaining ground on the end goal creates an air of unpredictability about what will take place. The tension is subtle, but it is felt by all.

Maclean has managed to do in 90 minutes what Tarantino couldn’t do in 3 hours, and that is create a simple, unsettling and gripping Western film that above all else, is quite accessible.  It’s hard to believe that this is a debut feature, certainly a little rough around the edges, but when a film is as enjoyable as this and looks as good as it does, I’m not one to nit-pick; this is a truly underrated gem from 2015.


11 responses to “Slow West (2015) [Review]

    • Absolutely. It is probably lazy on my part to draw those simple comparisons to Coen and Tarantino, but it’s another way of roping in a casual viewer. I liked it though, by the end I didn’t really know what to do. All got a bit much!


  1. Fassy in a western… never thought I’d see the day when I saw this movie a while back. I also really liked Ben Mendelsohn in his small(ish) role. And I agree, the cinematography is great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, kind of caught me off guard. But then I never thought he’d do a movie with a giant fake head or one where he’s plodding about a housing estate with a 14 year old girl. A man of many talents.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this movie from the start, and even though I realised quite early on it was going to end in tragedy, it still kept me hooked. 2015 was a great year for Fassbender, what with this, Macbeth and Steve Jobs, and as long as he keeps varying the parts (and genres), we’ll be praising him time and time again in the future…


  3. Completely agree – very good film with a few rough edges (which actually endear it to me even more, now I look back on it). I thought the humour landed well but McLean balances it with some well-judged serious scenes that address the value of life (given that you mention Tarantino, that’s something QT has never really shown much interest in). I’ll watch this again some day, and will be watching out for McLean’s next step.


  4. A fantastic film. I definitely agree about the photography — so gorgeous that it would be reason enough to watch the film, even if the rest of it wasn’t so good. It’s always nice to see a film that knows how long it should be and doesn’t stretch itself needlessly thin, too.


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