BIFF 2015: Slow West

Bergen International Film Festival 2015: 

John Maclean’s feature debut, Slow West, is a meditative and morbidly funny pastiche of the Western-genre. It follows two archetypical characters on an archetypical journey with an archetypical band of misfits and eccentrics en route to their destination. It’s pure and unadulterated fun throughout.

Slow West follows Jay (Kodi Smith-McPhee) and Silas (Michael Fassbender) on a quest to find Jay’s long lost love, Rose Ross (Caren Pistorius), who was forced to emigrate from Scotland to America with her father (Game of Thrones’ Rory McCann) on suspicion of murder. They live in a serene and picturesque cottage in Colorado, and as this represents a peaceful and idyllic destination for our travelling duo, their time on the road juxtaposes this with death, dread and a handful of encounters with, let’s just say, interesting people.

slow west 1

For one, they are followed by a band of bounty hunters lead by the eccentric Payne, masterfully played by Ben Mendelsohn. Embellished with the most pimped-out fur coat, Mendelsohn steals the entire show as he did in the Netflix-series, Bloodline. They also run into a Swedish family, a small gathering of local musicians and last but not least a mysterious, almost ethereal, researcher whose philosophical musings are not only thought-provoking by themselves, but also able to administer the movie with some depth and wisdom.

This depth and wisdom is also reflected in the cinematography, which captures the inherent beauty of the geographical locations thoroughly. Robbie Ryan has a delicate lens, at times bordering on the apathetic, but in the next moment filled with affection and love. Towards the end he composes one of the most effective and hilarious shoot-outs in recent memory, with immediate associations to Quentin Tarantino and his ability to use the camera in a playful way that compliments the entire production.

John Maclean’s first feature length film does not feel like a debut, perhaps because he works close to home. Fassbender returns from the brilliant short, Pitch Black Heist, and in terms of tone and structure, Slow West is surprisingly akin to a short film; quick, efficient and  focused. It’s a fun and quick ride with a bunch of memorable characters and situations, well-worth its run-time.

 

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