Slow West (John Maclean, 2015)

What's it about? A naive 16-year old (Kodi Smit-McPhee) searching for the love of his life in 19th century Colorado is guided on his quest by flinty bounty hunter Silas (Michael Fassbender) who has ulterior motives in mind.


Is it any good? It's a slow, offbeat Western but quite a good one, managing to be both realistic and ethereal in its depiction of the odd couple and their interaction with assorted characters throughout the (fairy) tale. Beautifully photographed throughout, it's an elegant looking film which makes full use of the stunning scenery (New Zealand doubling for Colorado) in a sort of melancholy, darkly comic road movie. But for all the European arthouse sensibilities, director Maclean still remembers to finish in the grand tradition of the Western with a climactic shoot-out, which is both exciting and visually impressive. At only 84 mins it could perhaps have afforded a bit more time to lend depth to the characters, but despite the superficiality of the story it still manages to end in oddly touching fashion. Not that quick on the draw, then, but very composed and sure-eyed in its manner.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Much critical acclaim, winning the Special Jury Prize at Sundance and gathering favourable comparisons with other slightly eccentric Westerns, such as Dead Man and McCabe & Mrs Miller - indeed Maclean cites the hazy atmosphere of the latter as a big influence and homages it directly in the absolutely faaaahbulous fur coat worn by the villainous Payne (Ben Mendehlson). Despite some grumblings about the slow pace, audiences have also generally approved, although those lured by the promise of Fassbender in his underwear have been reportedly disappointed by the baggy, stained frontier long-johns he sports here.

Anything else I should know? Elsewhere, music fans might be interested to know that in a former life Maclean was a member of The Beta Band, who were either a sub-standard Britpop outfit or ahead-of-their-time revolutionaries, depending on your musical tastes.

What does the Fonz think? Slow West, young man.

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