Slow West Review
Quirky and contemplative, whimsical and melancholy, edgy and unpredictable, writer/director John Maclean’s debut Slow West blends Coen Brothers with Terrence Malick to unique effect.Undoubtedly the scale, pace and sheer perfection of the piece are not on a par with the masterpieces from those grand auteurs, but it’s a credit to Maclean that he manages to both pay tribute to such visionaries, whilst finding a style and tone of his very own.Indeed the once DJ and band member (for High Fidelity fans, he was in The Beta Band) may have crafted a rather offbeat little curio which some might dismiss as too slow and too west for their liking, but there’s no denying that it strikes a distinctive chord.
Although the premise ostensibly follows the same path as the Coens’ True Grit remake – with a gruff veteran gunslinger helping a naive but purposeful youth navigate the open ranges – it is much more vehemently anti-western in tone; a revisionist effort in both body and soul.
Whilst, as already noted, this may not rub well with some, the cast make the whole dish more palatable with their committed performances, wrapped up in these unconventional characters who surprise at every turn. Fassbender leads the way – facing off against Ben Mendelsohn – with Kodi Smit-McPhee's innocence-personified youth caught up between these last two warriors of the dying west.
Quirky and unusual, Slow West is an impressively imaginative debut.
Not without its humour (normally in the face of adversity), MacLean’s script defies expectations, providing not just an anti-western but an anti-coming-of-age drama, whilst the cinematography is often pure Malick (with maybe a little Leone thrown into the broader action set-ups), although woefully restricted by a somewhat poor choice of 1.66:1 framing. Neither the ratio, nor the feature will be to everybody’s tastes, but it’s a quirky little western which many might still find a tasty mystery treat.
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