Slow West

Slow West ★★★½

Splendidly photographed, methodically paced & brilliantly directed, Slow West arrives as a pleasant surprise in the genre of westerns for it features a very straightforward premise but beneath that simple-looking plot lies hordes of themes that one usually associates with the legacy of the Wild West and for a debut feature, it's a pretty solid final product.

Set in the 1870s, the story of Slow West follows a young Scottish fellow who travels across America in pursuit of the woman he loves and after an unexpected incident, finds himself in the company of a bounty hunter who's willing to take him to his destination. As they further head into the West, it soon becomes clear that both of them are looking for the same thing but for different reasons.

Written & directed by John Maclean, Slow West marks his filmmaking debut and there's no denying that it's a very impressive start to his career. Maclean's work exhibits a restrained, careful & patient approach in handling the scripted material and despite the simple setting, his subtle addressing of the American West themes offers some nice food for thought. And it's gonna be interesting to see where he journeys from here.

The exotic, lush locations of New Zealand stand in for the American West and is exquisitely photographed by its precisely-controlled camera. Its colourful surroundings are beautifully captured and its fab use of bright colour tones only adds greater enhancements to those images. Its 84 minutes of runtime is deliberately slowed down to provide a more immersive experience, and finally, the background score stays in congruence with the unfolding action.

Coming to the performances, Slow West features a fine cast in Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorius & Rory McCann, and all do an adequate job in their given roles. Smit-McPhee is still unable to express any other emotion than the ever-afraid one which at times suited his character here, Fassbender is the real deal and does a terrific job with what he's given, and the input from the rest of its cast is good enough.

On an overall scale, Slow West is definitely amongst the better indie films released this year and begins Maclean's filmmaking career on a promising note. Crafted with care, composure & precision craftsmanship, smeared with wry sense of humour, even more augmented by its gorgeous backgrounds & ingenious use of camera, carried by an assured performance from Fassbender, and succeeding as a rich, refreshing & riveting example of its genre, Slow West is a surprising delight for western aficionados.

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