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Meek's Cutoff2010

  • 4.0
  • passes the bechdel test
Three 1840s' pioneer families become dangerously lost amidst the dust of the Oregon desert in Kelly Reichardt's sensory update of the Western genre, focusing not on typical fare like gun battles, card sharks or dramatic rescues but instead on the long, arduous journey westward. Having hired the know-it-all guide Stephen Meek to help guide their passage over the Cascade Mountains, these Easterners (led by Michelle Williams, Shirley Henderson, Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan) soon discover that their leader may know even less than them. "Is he ignorant or just plain evil?" one of the women asks. Known for such stunning, social-realist portraits of contemporary American dreamers like the young wanderer heading north in WENDY AND LUCY (also played by Michelle Williams), Reichardt here may be working in another century but her concerns remain the same: how individuals, unmoored from society, can survive against obstacles both natural and man-made. A strangely hypnotic, moving hybrid between the Westerns of John Ford and the avant-garde hyper-realism of Chantal Akerman's women’s-labor-focused JEANNE DIELMAN…, MEEK’S CUTOFF marks Reichardt's continued rise as one of the key voices of the new American independent cinema. - Jason Sanders

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3 members like this review

Having driven from Indiana and Illinois cross the country to California, I have often tried to imagine what that crossing, especially that of crossing the Rockies and the dry basins before getting to the Sierras……..and then…over the Sierras. Meeks Cut Off is a tragedy of hubris denying ignorance. Those poor people.

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Member Reviews (17)

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top reviewer

Having driven from Indiana and Illinois cross the country to California, I have often tried to imagine what that crossing, especially that of crossing the Rockies and the dry basins before getting to the Sierras……..and then…over the Sierras. Meeks Cut Off is a tragedy of hubris denying ignorance. Those poor people.

3 members like this review

Great cinematography. Captured the feeling of the landscape and the relentless crossing. I liked the sound of the men talking about directions, etc, while the women excluded in decision making, tried to listen in and capture words here and there, like the audience. Would have preferred a little more light on the night scenes. I can understand why it was done like this, but it is a movie and not the actual event.

The end caught me by surprise, but after thinking about it, I thought it was an excellent ending.

1 member likes this review

the sound could be better, could not hear it very well. a silent western

1 member likes this review

Does this prove you can produce a period piece film on a smaller budget? The oxen, precussion cap firearms and the squeek of the axils made for

a good look. A small isolated cast made it more affordable? Native language also a plus. I guess the tree implied that they were soon to reach the

destination without much more difficulty.

1 member likes this review
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Beautifully acted and shot in a non typical scenario,"Meek's Cutoff" draws you into the never ending drudgery of a trek into the unknown.What do you do when you are at the end of a limb,take another step into the mystery. Linear and focused and without the typical drama which could easily have been fallen back upon Kelly Reichardt nonetheless builds tension as the journey progresses. The spare musical score lends spaciousness and desolation to this little gem. Special kudos to Ron Rondeaux's portrayal as the "savage" and Bruce Greenwood's grizzly Meek. Michelle William's character builds in stature and strength as the journey progresses and opens the door to a possible solution.

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Kelly Reichardt's pioneer drama takes on a surprising level of tension as the character's journey continues. The style of the film is far less "majestic" than stories like these are normally told --- it almost takes a far less structured style. The conflicts are character driven vs. standard narrative devices. The concern here is not at all plot driven. As the film progresses there is a realization that these characters are people, not heroes or villains. This is surprising movie about the human instinct and the gradual disintegration of trust of each other.

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somber, different. captures the huge space they found themselves in and the native guy knew hisway around in.

A slow burner that builds tension without dialogue or silly action scenes. The shots are beautiful. The sound could have been better and the soundtrack could have been used more effectively. Its a very quiet (almost silent ) film. it will not be everyone's cup of tea.

terrible movie no plot at all

This film is a compelling work of art. The shots, the scenery, the dramatic tension, the lack of any resolution.

Great slow burning western.

Didn't watch it all the way through because it was in 4:3 format, which is hard to watch. But I checked on the aspect ratio and it was indeed filmed in 1:33:1

You're drawn in quickly to their plight, even without much in the way of dialogue. Simple filming tells much of the story, as does the landscape, although sometimes that filming seemed too simplistic, as if money was being saved by longer-than-necessary shots. However, that is but a minor quibble. This is not a Wayne western. It is more nuanced, more focused on the women involved and more concerned about the realities of the time. The absurdity of the settler's lack of food and water, when the indigenous man they capture could have likely assisted them greatly, is a stark example of the dangers of assumptions and prejudice. Meek has supposedly moved through these people's lands numerous times, yet knows little of their ways or language. They are but a "lesser" being in the way of progress, but the progress, the lives, of this small group becomes completely dependent on a man they have, for the most part, mistreated. Ignorance has put them in this predicament, as well as their misplaced faith in Meek, yet they have no choice but to continue, ignorant of their environment, ignorant of their captive's knowledge, and, in the end, unknowingly plodding forward to their salvation or doom. Don't look for a tidy end in this film, but that could well be the point. History isn't tidy, and the history told here is among the messiest to be found.

Solid, realistic western.

If I had young kids I'd encourage this to be viewed for it has interesting moral dilemmas, since no one gets shot, it's a refreshing insight into the travels of western expansionism.

OK so what was the plot?

almost life like very believable