FilmIFFBoston 2015Review

IFF Boston Review: Michael Fassbender Travels 19th Century America In ‘Slow West’

Wesley Emblidge ’17 / Emtertainment Monthly Executive Editor

Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee in Slow West Photo Credit: A24
Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee in Slow West Photo Credit: A24

In early 2011, most people didn’t know the name Michael Fassbender, but former musician turned music video director John Maclean did. By the end of that year Fassbender had starred in X-Men: First Class, but also Maclean’s short film Pitch Black Heist (which went on to win a BAFTA), and now with his higher profile Fassbender has reunited with Maclean to help him make his feature debut Slow West.

The western follows the Scottish Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who is traveling west across America in the 1870s to find Rose, the girl he loves. He crosses paths with the outlaw bounty hunter Silas (Fassbender), and together they journey west evading a gang of bounty hunters lead by Payne (Ben Mendelsohn). There are a lot of funny, sad and wonderfully strange moments packed into a pretty tight 84 minutes, along with a great climactic shootout that has you praying Maclean gets a deal to direct a big-budget action movie next. Fassbender outshines everyone though, getting to play the best kind of charming and just outlaw that reminds us why he’s one of our best stars. In many ways this feels like the kind of movie studios would be making 70 years ago, and Fassbender’s performance is no small part of that.

Michael Fassbender in Slow West Photo Credit: A24
Michael Fassbender in Slow West Photo Credit: A24

But it’s not just a silly action throwback, there’s lots of philosophical pontificating about the Native American genocide, unrequited love, murder and death. And then, there’s a musical interlude as well. Maclean has conjured up a very specific vision of the old west (one shot in New Zealand, actually) and Slow West makes him one to watch going forward when he has the resources to make something even more substantial.

Overall Grade: B

The Independent Film Festival of Boston runs through April 29th. Visit iffboston.org for more information.

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