The trailer for Slow West popped up in the cinema a lifetime ago. I cannot for the life of me remember where I saw it but I know that I did. It was immediately filed under "Upcoming Fassy Films" and then promptly forgotten. Slow West earned a limited release and my unwavering loyalty to Michael Fassbender meant that it wasn’t an effort drop everything and go see it immediately.
PLOT: Lovesick Jay (Kodie Smit-McPhee) travels from Scotland to America to find his long lost love Rose (Caren Pistorious). After arriving in lawless America Jay employs Silas (Michael Fassbender) to lead him safely across the country to Rose. END PLOT
The plot of Slow West is a relatively simple tale of two mismatched travellers who happen to meet while travelling across 19th century America. A begrudging friendship emerges against a backdrop of death and comedy. The body count is high and the humour is dark which makes Slow West my kind of film. There is a purposefully unsubtle “salt in wound” moment and a brilliantly understated conversation about the unfortunate death of an incompetent lumberjack. Despite not being a billed as a comedy there were plenty of unexpected laughs scattered throughout the film.
Kodie Smit-McPhee has an innocence that made Jay’s quest seem ridiculously naïve in a land where you can get mugged in your sleep and the cigar smoking Michael Fassbender is relishing his role as the bastard love child of Han Solo and Clint Eastwood. There is an argument to be made that both actors’ accents are shaky but this is only a minor quibble. As is law, Ben Mendelsohn pops up in yet another supporting role and even he couldn’t derail the film which is quite the achievement.
Slow West has clearly been made on a shoestring budget and the cheap sets coupled with a score than sounded like it was being played by an orchestra of one-armed drunkards made the entire production a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, disaster was averted as although the sets were basic the scenery and landscapes were gorgeous and the plodding score complimented the slow pace brilliantly.
The film clocks in at 84mins (IMDB) but despite the short running time nothing in Slow West happened at speed. The pacing is slow which adds to the nonchalant feel and contrasts with the dangerous environment Jay and Silas find themselves in. Slow West is much cleverer than meets the eye.
On another day Slow West would have been overlooked but the luck of the Irish strikes again and Michael Fassbender shows that he has the knack of choosing quirky indie films down to a fine art. Slow West gets 8/10. It will get lost in the summer melee but it is definitely worth a look if it should happen to saunter your way.