John Maclean's Slow West definitely lives up to its name, proving to be a painfully dull Western that moves at a sluggish speed. Thankfully, Michael Fassbender's performance is serviceable and Kodi Smit-McPhee's progression as an actor is notable.
John Maclean’s Slow West gives one an entirely new perspective on patience and just how much of it is required for the film, which is practically carried by a serviceable performance from Michael Fassbender. Slow West burns out like the slowest fire, leaving nothing but a faded memory of warmth and better times.
The only difference is Slow West never had better times. Maclean’s film starts off slow, revealing its sluggish intentions early on as a young Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) comes across a mysterious man known as Silas (Michael Fassbender).
Jay reveals his plans to travel across country to find his true love, while Silas agrees to accompany him for other reasons.
That’s the basic setup for Slow West, which makes way for a slow (and I do mean very slow) Western about love, forgiveness and redemption.
Maclean shoots the film with a traditional Western scope, capturing the scenery and provoking the mind and soul with an intimate connection to the beautiful landscapes. His ability to capture such feelings and emotions through basic location is great and brings forth that classic Western road trip feel.
It also helps that Fassbender and Smit-McPhee have enough on-screen chemistry to carry the weight of the film, which often-times comes across as weightless and misguided.
Slow West certainly feels like a film with a lot to say, but Maclean never quite focuses in on one message, instead settling for a sporadic and far from energetic film that looks and feels like an old-time Western, but never quite strikes down like one.
Michael Fassbender refrains from chewing up too much scenery, but his subtle performance comes as a reward in a film that’s mostly full of emptiness.
Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben Mendelsohn also star in the film, yet neither men capture the screen as gracefully as Fassbender.
Also holding the film back is an ending that presents itself as simple and poetic, yet comes across as confusing for no reason and lacking of any real closure.
Slow West comes to a halt not with a bang, but with a soft whisper into the night, nodding at what is to come next, while never really taking the time to reflect on what has already passed.
It’s tone deaf and a slap in the face to Fassbender and McPhee for carrying the film at such a sluggish pace, only to be met with an even more disappointing climax.
John Maclean‘s direction may be clean and presentable, but his writing suffers from far too much pointless exposition that makes Slow West feel much more bloated than it actually is.
The film feels like a three hour Western, yet it clocks in barely over an hour and a half.
Slow West isn’t a Western for modern crowds and it might not even be for those looking for a slow-burn dissection of a past era. It’s the kind of Western that promotes the director’s eye for locations and proper visual construction of a scene, while also being a good example of how a writer shouldn’t execute a story.
Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee barely save this one from being a complete waste of time, but their performances do show growth and character, especially McPhee’s as a progressing actor, while Fassbender simply reminds us that he doesn’t even have to try to turn in a better-than-average performance.