Meek's Cutoff movie still
Meek's Cutoff movie poster

Meek's Cutoff (2010)

Drama, Western

Director: Kelly Reichardt
Writer: Jonathan Raymond
Starring: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan

"A road movie without the road"

A Western that sincerely re-creates the 19th Century pioneer experience in America, adding new dimensions to the genre.

The film chronicles a three-wagon train of settlers making their way across the harsh and unforgiving desert of the Oregon territory, in 1845. They are led by Stephen Meeks (an unrecognizable Bruce Greenwood), who they hired as their guide, but not far along the trail, they start questioning his competence, and it soon becomes evident that their trust has been misplaced. With no relief in sight, tensions rise as water becomes increasingly scarce and supplies run low. The wives look on as the husbands discuss what to do, unable to participate in the decision making.

Described by some as a "feminist Western," thanks to the non-stereotypical female lead (Michelle Williams), who calls into question men's decision making, but it's also an atypical kind of Western, there are no quick-draw heroes or villains, no gun-wielding standoffs or spectacular climactic gunfights and no emphasis on the beauty and majesty of the American frontier, there's just the terrifying expanse of the west, and all the uncertainty that comes with it.

For some, the film's style will probably be a turnoff, with its long static shots, with entire scenes playing out without any dialogue or action, or the ambiguous open-ended ending, which leaves key elements of the story in doubt. Others, however, will find magic in the way it flips the genre on its head to create a moving, elegiac experience.

Plot summary from IMDb: The year is 1845, the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, and a wagon team of three families has hired the mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a short cut, Meek leads the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage. Over the coming days, the emigrants must face the scourges of hunger, thirst and their own lack of faith in each other's instincts for survival. When a Native American wanderer crosses their path, the emigrants are torn between their trust in a guide who has proven himself unreliable and a man who has always been seen as the natural enemy.

Awards: 6 wins & 11 nominations.
Runtime: 104 min



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