What Jesse said:
Yo, I got another one fer ya. This one is called Slow West and it stars Michael Fassbender and some kid named Kodi Smit-McPhee, who, turns out, I’ve already seen in another great movie – The Road. Anyway, this is kind of a weird love story about a pasty-faced lovesick kid (Kodi) who travels from Scotland to the badlands of 19th century America in search of his massive crush, a girl named Rose. The kid is uber naive and idealistic about his quest so you know he’s in trouble as soon as you see him in the New World. Throw in some crazy bounty hunters and a jaded gunslinger with an agenda and you got yourself a pretty quirky twist on the old western genre. I really enjoyed this one so cancel your plans for the Pokemon Go hunt and go see this movie right now. Go.
Apparently I took a while getting around to watching this one – as evidenced by Jesse’s outdated reference to a game that I was too old for even a decade ago when anyone cared about Pokemon. Part of the delay was life – I was busy doing non-movie-related activities. But I was also very skeptical about this movie. I’m not a fan of westerns generally and the idea that Jesse might have uncovered a good one seemed pretty remote.
Thankfully, this isn’t really a western, or at least it doesn’t feel like one. It does tick all the western boxes: dusty plains, wooden buildings, people riding horses, everyone has a gun, nobody can aim a gun, the good guy looks just like the bad guys, nobody is ever in a hurry, it rarely rains but when it does everyone just gets wet, etc. Yet somehow this film feels less like western and more like fantasy. I can’t quite place it, but the atmosphere doesn’t feel like it’s intended to be part of our reality – it has the same once-upon-a-timeness as the beginning of Stardust. You can sort of relate to the characters, but their reality is clearly askew. This is particularly strong at the start, before the film shifts to the New World, but it continues right through to the end. That said, it’s doesn’t feel completely foreign in the way that Cowboys & Aliens does.
The whole thing gives off a slight awkwardness that I enjoyed, and also left me constantly guessing where it was going to take me. In the end, the basic result is pretty obvious – you can predict how Jay’s quest to find Rose is going to turn out just from the interaction between the two characters in the first five minutes. But this is definitely one of those movies that is more about the details of the absurd journey, than the details of the absurd ending.
Aside from some minor gruesomeness near the end, Slow West is fairly easy to watch, has a nice unrushed – but not too slow – pace and is packed with dry humour that you need to pay attention to notice (ha, salt in the wound!). It’s like an easy-listening radio station during ‘the cool DJ’s’ shift – nothing overly special, but a fine way to spend a few hours.