On its surface, Slow West is a western in a very traditional mode. Young Kodi Smit-McPhee (soon to be Nightcrawler in X-Men: Apocalypse) has journeyed from Ireland to find the woman he loves; she’s vanished into the stark American West of 1870. Such a naïf has little chance of surviving, much less finding the woman he loves, at least until he crosses paths with Michael Fassbender, a hardened bounty-hunter with his own agenda for young Smit-McPhee. But it’s a film that’s really up to several very canny and thought-provoking things. Revisionist movies are a dime a dozen these days, but when they’re as smart and as ultimately haunting as this one, they’re worth quite a bit more than that price. In many ways, the film is an exploration of the myth of the Western and the masculine heroes at the core of our romantic adventures. Smit-McPhee’s character is a true romantic, staring up at the stars and murmuring about how both he and the woman he loves can see the same sky; Fassbender’s character is a taciturn, stoic, cigar-chomping he-man, staring death in the face without a flicker. But at the end of the day, the film wonders, are either of these men worth a damn? And to what degree are these personas just that: facades that hide their true selves? The film is inventively directed, often purposely calling attention to its staginess, particularly in the climactic gun battle, which seems to take place on a meticulously crafted stage. All part, I think, of the film’s goal of reminding us that these myths are just that; the heroic cowboy bears little relation to reality. Then there’s the film’s odd sense of humor; no moment is so serious or sorrowful that the film isn’t willing to undercut it with a cheap joke, but it works somehow. It’s a film that I think will be divisive – the ending isn’t one that any viewer is going to be lukewarm on. It’s a film to be loved or hated. I loved it. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – Fassbender & Smit-McPhee are excellent as a pair of mismatched travelers in this strange, myth-mocking revisionist western. 4 stars.