It’s 1870 and a 16-year old hopeless romantic, Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has journeyed from the cliffs of Scotland to the heart of Colorado in search of his love, Rose, and her father. Unaware of the bounty on the head of his beloved, and naive to the dangers of the wild west, outlaw Silas (Michael Fassbender) agrees to be his chaperone his quest but with an agenda of his own.

The film opens to a young dreamer, Jay as he gazes at the stars. Wasting no time in kick-starting our story, he soon meets a rogue and hardened outlaw, Silas. Seeing how poorly equipped Jay is for the turbulent conditions, he offers his services to secure Jay safe passage to Rose who is a wanted woman. On their travels, Silas learns of Jay’s story and his reason for heading west, realising that Jay is oblivious to the bounty on his girlfriend’s head. However, Silas knows all too well of the $2000 reward and it seems their meeting was not so coincidental. Despite their differences, the two soon form a loose but present bond as they come up against fellow outlaws and bounty hunters also in search of Rose and her father.

Fassbender stars as a cool-under-pressure outlaw who gets by anyway that he can. Orphaned from a young age, he had no choice but to join a gang who taught him the dangers of the west. Giving yet another stellar performance, Fassbender brings a great level of charisma and charm to the narrative. Whilst Michael Fassbender is a large part of the film’s success, he is not the only reason. Filmed on a micro-budget in New Zealand and directed by rookie, John Maclean (known for Man on a Motorcycle (2009), shot on a phone and also starring Michael Fassbender), Slow West is beautiful. Channeling the Coen Brothers’ True Grit (2010) and traces of inspiration from Wes Anderson, each shot is visually stunning. Maclean, a scot like Jay, brings a fresh perspective to the Wild West, portraying Africans, Native Americans, the Swedish and the Irish immigrants in a unique and captivating way.

Much like The Coen Brothers also, Slow West features a great deal of gallows humour. From the opening scene, subtle reminders and Silas’ narration set the scene of horrendous conditions in which any man will kill for a can of beans and a blanket – yet there is comic relief. Somehow, Maclean manages to make light of their trials and tribulations on the road to their fugitives whilst maintaining the suspense of the story.

Innocence is a core theme and this is embodied by Jay’s character. Aged only 16 years old, thin and almost frail-looking in comparison to his body-guard, Silas, he is hopeful that he will find Rose, oblivious to the constant dangers of gun-slinging gangs or the situation she and her father have found themselves in. This is shown also in the loss of innocence of their surroundings as they pass through burnt down Indian villages and outlaws who corrupt the land out of desperation to survive. More prominent is that innocence is a danger within itself as Silas has to save Jay from scrape to scrape when his naivety gets the best of him, reminding us that he is a child who is only dressed as a man.

Visually stunning, with wonderful performances from all cast members and a refreshing take on its genre, Slow West is a beautiful piece of independent cinema. A work of rare purity, Slow West gets a Sophie star rating of 4 out of 5 stars and a big thumbs up from me.


DVD Review: Slow West
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Sophie is a film blogger from South London with a degree in Film Theory and Major Production. Sophie currently works in digital marketing but in her spare time you'll find her writing reviews or at the cinema. Sophie loves all things Star Wars and Hollywood but having specialized in the Horror genre, monsters are her first love. She'll watch absolutely anything given the chance - you can find her also on her blog, Twitter: