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Slow West



MV5BNTYxNDA5ODk5NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzMwMzIwNTE@__V1__SX1217_SY602_Released: 26th June 2015

Directed By: John Mcclean

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-Mcphee

Certificate: 15

It’s no great secret that the Western genre has dwindled in popularity in recent decades. The genre was once a staple of American cinema with icons like John Wayne and in later years Clint Eastwood being some of the biggest names in Hollywood in their day.

The genre has shown faint signs of life in recent years with films like Django Unchained and True Grit highlighting just how good it can still be whilst the neo-western has taken on many different forms over the last 30 years, most notably in a galaxy far far away. As opposed to straight out action pieces the genre in recent years has been used to highlight the struggles of man or to highlight the atrocities the natives had to endure.

Slow West, the latest western movie to hit cinemas has a little bit of all of these and manages to package it all into a short but incredibly sweet 84 minute package. Kodi-Scott McPhee plays Jay, a young idealist looking for his true love, Rose, a young girl he spent some time with before being torn away from her. Michael Fassbender plays Silas, a world weary bounty hunter in the mold of Clint Eastwood’s man with no name. Silas is a man of few words, one who’d rather let his actions do the talking and he takes Jay under his protective wing on his quest, though Silas’ intentions aren’t quite as noble as they seem. Also on the look out for Rosie is Ben Mendelsohn’s Payne and his gang of merry men.

At one point during the movie Jay stumbles drunk into the wrong camp and is told a tale about a young outlaw looking to make a name for himself. The romanticism shown by the outlaw in the tale almost perfectly highlights what is absent from this movie, the characters in this movie aren’t all handsome young gunslingers who shoot straight from the hips, they are fully realised characters trying to make their way through the west in the hope of finding something new and it makes for a refreshing change.

First time writer/director John Maclean has clearly learnt a thing or two from The Coen Brothers, tackling serious issues but sprinkling them with some distinctive dark humour. One moment late in the movie’s climactic shoot out involving a jar of salt is easily the finest visual gag used in a movie this year. But underpinning it all is the destruction of a whole culture, almost every character we encounter is a foreigner trying to make their luck in the west at the expense of the native Indians. This is all highlighted when Jay and Silas stumble upon a burnt down Indian camp in one of the movie’s more shocking moments.

Another reason for the success of Maclean’s movie is the talent he has managed to assemble on screen. Fassbender oozes charisma and feels instantly iconic as Silas, with his voice over adding both wisdom and pathos to the tale, whilst Mendelsohn is as menacing as ever. McPhee is perfectly cast as Jay- his innocence in a world of violence and greed provides the beating heart of the movie- ‘A jack rabbit in a den of wolves’ as Silas describes him.

Slow West is one of the most complete movies of the year so far. In 84 minutes Maclean doesn’t waste one frame of the movie. Packed with great performances, witty humour and some bleak observations Slow West is the best western since True Grit.

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