Slow West (Blu-ray) (2015)
|Category||Western||Featurette-Behind The Scenes-(7:23)|
|Year Of Production||2015|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||John Maclean|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.66:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
In 1870 sixteen year old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) comes from Scotland to Colorado in search of his lost love Rose (Caren Pistorius). He is naļve and innocent and, as one character comments, has been very lucky to have got this far into the brutal and violent west. Jay is saved from death by bounty hunter Silas (Michael Fassbender) who offers to guide Jay to where he is going, for a price. Jay agrees, but we soon learn that Silas has another agenda: Rose and her father John (Rory McCann) are wanted for murder and have a bounty of $2,000 on their heads, dead or alive. Silas expects Jay to lead him to them but he is not the only one seeking the reward: Payne (Ben Mendelsohn) and his gang are following Silas and Jay while rogue clergyman Angus (Tony Croft) is also in the game. Who will find Rose and her father first?
Slow West is an interesting, revisionist western written and directed by Scotsman John Maclean; it is his first feature film although he has directed short films, including Pitch Black Heist (2011) for which he won a BAFTA. Nothing, and no one, in Slow West is as they seem and double-crosses, violence and murder recur on a regular basis. Slow West is, indeed, slow moving in places but it is interspersed with bursts of sudden and abrupt violence while the scenery (the film was shot on the south island of New Zealand standing in for Colorado) is spectacular and always worth looking at, even though the film was not shot in a widescreen aspect ratio but in the European 1.66:1. But rather then detract from the visuals, this works as it focuses the camera, and our attention, inwards upon the characters.
The film is well-served by a strong cast. Kodi Smit-McPhee made an impact with child roles in Romulus, My Father (2007) and The Road (2009) and in the recent mini-series Gallipoli (2015) he showed that he has the acting ability and maturity to headline a major production. In Slow West his Jay is a fine amalgam of naivety, insecurity and bravado, while suggesting, via flashbacks, that his memories of Rose may not be as realistic as he seems to believe. Michael Fassbender is always worth watching and Slow West is no exception. I have enjoyed his performances in films such as Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Centurion (2010); he received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor in 12 Years a Slave (2013) and recently headlined in Macbeth so his career is certainly on a roll. Australia is well represented in the cast of Slow West for as well as Kodi Smit-McPhee it features a fine turn by Ben Mendelsohn, who is delicious as the very much over the top, and very dangerous, Payne.
Slow West is only 80 minutes long and it sometimes feels slightly meandering until it rushes headlong into its bloody climax. This is quite a revisionist western bringing in immigrants, native Americans, down at heel soldiers, settlers and bounty hunters; it is a hostile, violent world of death and peril where no one, not even the naļve Jay, is innocent. Like all the best western dramas, Slow West is character driven and I enjoyed the film a lot, although to my mind the voiceover narration by Silas is a misstep as it tends to state the obvious. I think that the film could have been better, and more mysterious without it; sometimes less information is for the better.
Slow West is presented in the European aspect ratio of 1.66:1, the original ratio, in 1080i using the MPEG-4 AVC code.
Despite being only 1080i this is a good looking print. Shot using Arri Alexa cameras, the fine detail is impressive with every dirt mark, line and whisker showing clearly. Colours are deep and glossy, with vibrant blues and greens, while the beautiful New Zealand locations look superb. Blacks are solid, shadow detail very good, skin tones natural, contrast and brightness consistent.
I did not notice any marks or artefacts.
English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available in a clear white font. White subtitles also automatically translated a section of French dialogue.
The audio is English DTS-HD MA 5.1.
The audio is very good. Dialogue was mostly always clear. The surrounds and rears were not overdone but were employed effectively, and with subtlety, for music and ambient effects such as wind, rain, rustling in the woods at night, insects and footsteps. Gunshots are crisp and resound, the sub-woofer adding depth to the thunder, hooves and gunshots.
Lip synchronisation was fine.
The original score by Australian Jed Kurzel (who won an APRA for Snowtown (2011)) uses mostly guitar and mandolin. It is a good score which manages to be both melancholy and plaintive thus effectively supporting the visuals and moods of the film.
|Surround Channel Use|
A short EPK featurette with some on-set footage and comments by cast members Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Caren Pistorius and Ben Mendelsohn plus writer / director John Maclean. They provide some superficial thoughts on the western genre, the characters, other actors and the director.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region A US version of Slow West has the same featurette but adds 2 deleted scenes and Spanish subtitles. I suppose the deleted scenes give that release the edge although it hardly seems worthwhile importing.
Filmed in New Zealand with a strong Australian contingent, Slow West is an interesting revisionist western with strong characters, sudden and brutal violence, a good cast, and superb scenery, resulting in a western that is a little different and certainly worth seeking out.
The video and audio are very good, a short featurette is the only extra.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|