The title of John Maclean’s Slow West (2015) may refer to the implacable slowness of the Old West in becoming civilized. To be sure, the film’s characters have it bad precisely owing to an absence of civilization, too often spelling violent death. The chief figure, Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee), has left Scotland to search the American West for the runaway girl he loves, which girl bears a Scottish-endowed price on her head.
Its premise and story not wholly agreeable, Slow West is slightly more than okay as a Western and outstanding as a debut feature. There are many inventive shots (a closeup of ants on a pistol barrel, armed men springing up amid tall wheat) and some potent shoot-out scenes. Macclean is both writer and director, and he knows enough to never patronize Jay, who is little more than a boy.
This too: as a Western antihero, Michael Fassbender is a much better actor than John Wayne or the young Clint Eastwood.