Who doesn't love a good Western? Personally, I'm a huge fan of the genre. Some of the best films in the past few years are Westerns; think No Country For Old Men and Django Unchained. One film releasing this year that I was super excited for was Slow West. Well, I saw the film and the verdict is in.

Opening with a poetic narration from Michael Fassbender and a bright, in-awe Kodi Smit-McPhee sitting under the stars, as they light up one by one, it's hard to imagine that this is only director John Maclean's first foray into directing and cinema, for that matter, for Slow West is an impressive, accomplished feature. It's MacLean's love letter to the genre; breaking the usual conventions often associated with the Western.

Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is an effervescent, 16 year old Scottish boy. Travelling alone through America, where bandits roam free and people getting shot is a usual occurrence, he sets out in a bit to search for his love Rose Ross (Caren Pistorius). Along the way, he is found by bounty hunter Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender), who offers to ride with Jay and get him to Rose safely for a small sum of cash.

However, what Cavendish doesn't realise is that there's a handsome bounty of $2,000 on Rose and her father, dead or alive, and Silas is just using him, tagging along merely to get to Rose. He isn't the only one though as several other hunters want to get their hands on the cash and use the boy as a means of getting to their target - of which includes the dangerous team of gun-toting, bearded bandits led by Ben Mendelsohn's antagonist Payne.
As is expected from a film with "slow" in the title, Slow West doesn't go at a breakneck pace and, instead, takes its time to tell the story. That's not to say this is a painfully tedious film because it's not. Clocking in at 84 minutes long, this the rare occasion where you want more from a film than the runtime. The action is never in abundance but never too little either and the grand finale is, believe me, grand in every way imaginable but the plot never drags or ever gets boring. There's always something to think about. MacLean has created an original film that is deeply stirring and captivating.

It goes hand-in-hand with the astounding acting, only adding to the nuance and beauty of this bold endeavour. Fassbender is a real treat and you completely buy into his character; intimidating yet gentle, witty but never quirky. Smit-McPhee matches the star on every level, giving a truly alluring performance. His motivations are clear and his naïve, starry-eyed wonder is a true delight. He demands your attention but never your sympathy and there's some seriously veritable, fiery chemistry between the pair. There's also a beguiling Caren Pistorius and Ben Mendelsohn makes a tremendous antagonist too.

The cinematography for the project is gorgeous. This is a beautifully shot film that is a marvel to watch and all credit goes to DP Robbie Ryan, who does a fine job, capturing every little detail. The iconography of the Western is still there; stunning landscapes and rich, provocative imagery. This is a deliriously thrilling picture that is both compelling and entertaining. There's poetry to the proceedings, through the dialogue but the scenery too. The comedy is dark but works and the violence is slick and relentless. This is one stylish Western.

VERDICT:
Eccentric and stylish, Slow West relishes in its audacity and delirious beauty. Compelling as it is captivating, this is as good a Western as they come. It's hard to imagine that this is only John MacLaen's directorial debut. 
★★★★☆

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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