Love and Death in the West
Chris Kavan - wrote on 07/01/15
Slow West is a story about love, but also about trust - and how putting your trust in the right (or wrong) person can mean the difference between life or death - especially in a place as unforgiving as the West.
We follow the a young, Scottish man Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who is traveling west to reunite with the girl he loves, Rose Ross (Caren Pistorius) who has fled with her father (Rory McCann, probably known to many for portraying "The Hound" on Game of Thrones) following a crime. Unprepared and seemingly with little knowledge about just what he is getting in to - he stumbles upon a group of ex-soldiers only to be rescued by a lone drifter/bounty hunter Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender). He decides to save the boy and accompany him - though he has his own motives as Rose and her father have a hefty bounty on their heads (Dead or Alive) - one he wants to collect before someone else does.
Thus we begin this adventure West, through Indian territory and vast plains, forests and lonely roads. The film was shot in New Zealand but it looks so much like the American West you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference. It is beautifully shot - from a shot of riding through a smoke-filled forest and coming out covered in ash through a ruined Indian village, to waking up from an Absinthe bender to discover a river running through your camp - there are just so many great images that stand out - each one just as impressive as the last.
The film also conveys the absolute desperation and harsh conditions through its characters - from a Swedish couple pushed to the edge at a lone trading post, to a wonderful campfire scene reminiscent of the Ship of Lost Souls to an overly-friendly author in the literal middle of nowhere - each encounter brings a new understanding of just how unforgiving the land was. The montage at the end of every single life taken is a stroke of genius to convey this point fully.
The film also does not stray away from violence. There are a lot of deaths on screen, and though none are over-the-top with blood - you still feel the impact of those bullets. It does not shy away from these scenes - it often sometimes lingers, making that impact all the more powerful. Though you would think the name Slow West would imply a leisurely trip - the film is anything but that. It's an unflinching, often brutal, and never slow exploration of land and characters of the West. And it's certainly a trip worth taking.