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


Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds Poster

Quentin Tarantino’s film from 2009 is set in Nazi-occupied France and starts with a long shot of an idyllic looking country farmhouse as a man cuts wood with an axe and a woman hangs washing on the line. An SD Colnel Hans Landa (Christopher Waltz) and his assistants approach up the drive to interrogate the farmer Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet) about rumours of his harbouring a Jewish family. It is an absolutely fantastic scene full of nice touches, extremely polite tension and surprising restraint. Both actors play the scene perfectly.

Next up we are introduced to the other side of the story and Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine character. To me this scene is slightly awkward sitting and an inevitable slight let down after the fantastic opening. When Christopher Waltz returns to the screen the interest picks up again – he really is the best thing about this film and makes compelling viewing.

Another top-drawer scene takes place in a small underground bar where British Lieutenant Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) and German actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) are trying to conduct a meeting without rousing local suspicions. Another example of incredible tension and subtleties this is more compelling viewing. The film slowly builds to a huge set piece for a pre-finale and we are left with two of the characters battling for control.

There are moments of great humour too, a great cameo from Mike Myers and some almost expected great tracking shots and visual touches from Quentin. So, it’s a film with a few moments of brilliance and a fantastic central performance by Christopher Waltz. Perhaps a little baggy in parts and with a few internal inconsistencies and it may look a little ridiculous in retrospect but who cares when it’s for the most part a really enjoyable ride.

4 on 5

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Christopher Waltz, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger
UK Release: 19th August 2009


Hunger Poster

A film about the inmates of Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison during the early 1980’s, specifically the dirty protests and hunger strikes. It helps to have a basic idea of the issues in question, but if you don’t it makes sense as a film and will encourage you to delve into them after the film.

It is a film which from the start is fantastically shot and comes across as very confident and accomplished, especially when you later learn that it is the first film from Turner award winning artist Steve McQueen. What it doesn’t come across as is partisan: it is more fly-on-the-wall documentary in style than anything. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a narrative (it does), but it allows you to have your own opinions on the issues involved (or perhaps more accurately doesn’t shy away from showing the bad aspects of all sides involved) and takes a more presentative approach, highlighting the ramifications of the situation and particularly the way in which they affect friends, families and loved ones.

It is a pretty grim account on most occasions and is quite a tough watch, but incredibly powerful.

One scene in particular with Micheal Fassbender as Bobby Sands talking/arguing with a priest is very intense and understated at the same time. The two of them are sat opposite each other at a small table, smoking, brilliantly lit and the camera is positioned side-on and static for the entire 20 minute scene as they wrangle with the issues. Michael Fassbender goes to frankly unbelievable lengths to inject awkward realism into his role, especially at the end of the story.

It leaves you with a strong sense of how lives can be ruined over situations that can perhaps be hard to comprehend for those removed.

4 on 5

Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Liam Cunningham, Michael Fassbender, Stuart Graham
UK Release: 31 October 2008