“… like Wes Anderson’s ‘True Grit’.”
After dealing with a slew of mediocre movies over the past week or so, I decided to take a chance on Slow West which is a movie that I’ve been wanting to see for quite some time now. Slow West is a western that follows a young man, Jay, who leaves his home in Scotland in order to find the love of his life, Rose, after she moved to the west with her father. Along his travels Jay comes across a mysterious gunman who essentially hires himself as Jay’s bodyguard, and the pair continue their trek across the dangerous American west.
Right off the bat what surprised me about Slow West was just how quirky this film is. Now I know the term ‘quirky’ has some negative connotation attached to it, but I mean this in the best possible way. The easiest way for me to describe this film is to say that it is like Wes Anderson’s ‘True Grit’. Now this isn’t the best comparison because the movie is neither directed by Wes Anderson, or the same story as True Grit but that’s the best way that I can describe the way the film felt to me. Now I really loved the tone of Slow West because although it was quirky, it didn’t always manifest that tone with jokes. What it did instead was merely highlight how ridiculous some of the scenarios in the film were. Now if you’ve been reading my reviews for a while you’ll know that I like when a movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, so in that regard I loved Slow West. What I really liked about the tone of the film is that despite the more lighthearted moments, Slow West made it clear that the west is still a very dark and dangerous place. The brutal violence that would come out of nowhere, the constant fear that someone is going to murder you in your sleep; all of these fears were brought to life by the film. This was only accentuated by the amazing ending (which I’m not going to spoil here) that really shows how inconsequential a lot of actions can be in that time period. I especially liked the slideshow of the film’s body count which not only showed you that actions do in fact have consequences, but it was kind of a wakeup call because I had already forgotten that some of those people had died in the film. It’s insane to think that the killing of a person (even though it’s fiction) is such a big deal, but I had already forgotten most of the people who had died in the film. The entire movie treats death as inevitable, but the ending takes a moment to remind you that while the west makes for a good set piece, living in that time was hell.
But it wasn’t just the tone of Slow West that I liked, I also thought the rest of the film was great too. First of all let’s talk about performances. Kodi Smit-McPhee plays the character of Jay, the young man looking for his love, and he nails it. Not only does he convey the feeling of true love and the willingness to stop at nothing to appease it, but there are also very real undertones of him being out of his element. He has no idea what he is doing, but he will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal. Then of course you have Michael Fassbender who does an amazing job as Silas the gunman. Fassbender does a great job playing the heartless gunman who actually has a heart of gold. It was really sweet to see him slowly start to care for Jay over the course of the film, but he was also able to convey a darker set of emotions when confronted by his old acquaintance Payne. Speaking of Payne, let’s take a minute to talk about how fucking great Ben Mendelsohn is. Ben Mendelsohn (or as I like to call him: “Benny Menny”) is an actor that, for me at least, came out of fucking nowhere. When Star Wars: Rogue One came out everyone was talking about how much they love The Mendelsohn and I was sitting there going “Who?”. Well after I saw the film I looked him up, and it turns out Ben Mendelsohn has been in pretty much everything good for the past six years; and Slow West is no exception. Bendelsohn delivers an absolutely chilling performance as Payne, a bounty hunter who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. I mean everything about this character was fucked, even down to what he was wearing (I mean, a fur coat? It must be like a hundred degrees out there! You’re going to get heat stroke, you nutcase!). The entire time you knew that Payne was a man who would stop at nothing to get what he wants, but the way that he restrained himself was what really scared the shit out of me. You knew (just like he knew) that he was in control, but he didn’t act on it; this made him much scarier than your run-of-the-mill “smash things until I get my way” villain. I also really enjoyed the direction of the film, which really did a good job of capturing the beauty and scope of the surroundings, and the score. The score was particularly interesting to me because it seems to have a nice mix of classical music, and period-based music, both of which doing a wonderful job to set the various tones throughout the film.
Overall Slow West offers you one hell of a time that is unlike almost any other western I’ve seen. Instead of coming at you with a heavy heart, Slow West eases you into the world with a lot of jokes and lighthearted scenarios. But don’t let that fool you because Slow West doesn’t let you forget just how dangerous the setting of this film is. With wonderful performances, beautiful direction, and an amazing score Slow West delivers a unique and magical experience.
I give Slow West an A