A western starring Michael Fassbender is good enough to get me excited. Slow West was in limited release this past spring. While it was not a huge hit, it did make a big splash with critics and served as something of a nice distraction in between the bigger budgeted westerns that arrive in theaters every so often. Add the presence of Fassbender and some other strong talent and you have an alternative western with plenty of style to make for an engaging experience fit to be added to the genre. Now the film is on Blu-ray and it looks great.
Slow West follows a 16-year-old boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) on a journey across 19th-century frontier America in search of the woman he loves. Due to some interesting circumstances, the boy, Jay, is accompanied by a mysterious traveler Silas (Fassbender). The two form a unique alliance, as they travel together with hopes of arriving at their destination, possibly collecting a bounty, and dealing with an outlaw gang that Silas was one a part of.
Writer/director John Maclean does plenty to make this western stand out from others. For starters, his script is quite sharp. There is a darkly comedic edge that allows the film to stay away from wallowing in the melodrama involving the romantic quest of Jay. It makes the film more entertaining when it comes to taking the violence into account as well. Slow West is a film with a high body count, but it has a quirky sort of energy to keep you from focusing on how brutal it really is.
That was easily an aspect I found quite enjoyable. The sense of humor allows Slow West to join the ranks of films like Coen brothers take on True Grit or Jim Jarmusch’s existential western Dead Man. It was not something I saw coming, going in, so it was a nice surprise to find that this was more than just a standard western featuring actors I really enjoy.
Speaking of the actors, this cast is great. Fassbender can do no wrong and he acquits himself to the world of the western quite well. The young Smit-McPhee is certainly growing up and he does well to counter the gruff persona that Fassbender shoots for. Then you have Ben Mendelsohn, who once again plays a slimy character you love to hate. It’s strong work that easily propels the film into earning its high regard.
It also looks great. The film may have a low budget, but cinematographer Robbie Ryan does a fine job of shooting New Zealand to look like frontier time Colorado. You also have plenty of fine work from all the filmmakers to really bring out the western feel for a film that really tries hard to be its own unique entry in the genre.
There are a lot of great things to admire about Slow West. The film looks great, has a solid cast, and does plenty to be indebted to the genre, while also bringing something new. There really are plenty of westerns out there, but it is always great to get something new and worthwhile to check out.
Encoding: AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Clarity/Detail: Slow West looks great on Blu-ray. Shot digitally, there is plenty to admire in the way this film captures the wide open vistas, yet also does a fine job filling in the details when things get up close and personal. There is so much to admire in the way this film has been put together that it truly is impressive to see such clarity come out in this home release.
Depth: The depth of field is a great way to handle the sense of scope, when considering the frontier aspect of this film. It comes off quite well.
Black Levels: There is little to get upset about here, as the black levels are deep and inky.
Color Reproduction: There is a lot of great color to be found in this film, as there was definitely an attempt to use that as a way to emphasize the film’s tone. The Blu-ray does plenty to represent this element, which allows for a great level of vividness.
Flesh Tones: Characters look great in this film, as there is a lot of fine detail to be found in the factial textures.
Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Dynamics: This is a subtle audio track, but that does not mean the representation is not just. There is a lot to take in from a film like this, which is benefited by a strong lossless soundtrack.
Low Frequency Extension: The bursts of action that take place make for a fine way to utilize the LFE channel.
Surround Sound Presentation: The nature of the environment allows for ambient noise, which is well represented in the balance of the sound on this track. Add in the other sound elements and you get a great, focused experience.
Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is loud and clear.
It is unfortunate not to get more insight on such a creative film such as this. Extras are pretty scant here.
- On Strange Land: Making Slow West (HD, 7:19) – Standard EPK material.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 8:44) – Two scenes presented, but nothing special.
Slow West is a fine western deserving of a larger audience. It does plenty to stand out, while giving into the expectation of the genre. The Blu-ray is quite solid as far as its technical presentation goes. I wish there was more to say about the extras, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from checking out this film.