Slow West

16 year old Scottish boy Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) decides to travel to Colorado in 19th century America to look for his love, Rose Ross (Caren Pistorious). We pick up the journey shortly after he arrives on the East Coast and realise right away how out of his depth he is. As he gets caught up in a battle between a couple of groups of men, bounty hunter Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) fortunately comes to his rescue and Jay gives him all of his money to offer him protection along his journey.

And their journey is stylish, occasionally brutal, occasionally funny and always interesting. There are lots of diversions and incidences en-route and it has a very compelling relationship between Jay and Silas at it’s core, with particularly fine performances from Kodi Smit-McPhe and the always great Michael Fassbender.

It’s described as a western, but for all the occasionally violent moments it’s not got the macho feel of a typical western, it’s much more playful and bizarre than the typical film of ponderous posturing and it’s visually a joy. It’s also a snappy 84 minutes.

It’s an enjoyable and confident film and particularly promising as hopefully the first of many films from first time director John Maclean.

4 on 5

Director: John Maclean
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhe, Caren Pistorious, Ben Mendleson
UK Release: 26 June 2015


Trolljegeren [The Troll Hunter]

Another found-footage mockumentary in the style of the Blair Witch Project, The Troll Hunter follows a group of journalist students in Norway as they pursue the man accused of being an illegal bear baiter in hope of uncovering something to give them a story. What will they find? Well, the name of the film hints at something and the poster has a massive troll on it, so it’s not really the biggest secret!

The film is played very straight for the most part and the cool, calm Hans goes about his business with the weariness of a disillusioned, prospect-less office worker. Throughout the film experts appear occasionally during the story to explain various quirks of the troll mythology in sciency terminology. The pylons are a very nice idea in this vain, the bear paws bring a smile to your face and there’s another nice idea when the cameraman arrives at the train station.

Quite early on Hans (Otto Jespersen) comes running out of the forest in the dark towards the camera screaming “TROLLLL!!”. It is a bit out of step with the mood of the film and quite frankly a bit ridiculous, so just has you laughing. You don’t see a troll in that scene, but when you do I felt they led with completely the wrong one. I won’t say why, but it’s too much too early on in the film and leaves little room for manoeuvre in the subsequent story.

Later on there is a scene on a bridge which is very good in terms of creating a sense of danger and an interaction between the CGI and the actors. The camerawork was also good in this scene which was in contrast to a number of the action scenes which revert to the shaky camerawork as is the standard with mockumentaries. I’m pleased I wasn’t watching this at the cinema as it must have been very uncomfortable on a large screen.

You also feel how much it plays like an advert for the tourist board of Norwegian countryside – half the film’s running time is shots of the terrain through the car windscreen that then pan inside for the sound girl to pull the same silly face. There’s an awful lot of not a lot going on and it feels quite stale and flat for long periods.

The framing of the footage as “found” and “real” and “unexplained” is a bit pathetic and unnecessary.

So peaks and troughs really, some great ideas and some long bland sections.

2 on 5

Director: André Øvredal

Starring: Otto Jespersen, Hans Morten Hansen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Johanna
UK Release: 9th September 2011