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2.9 out of 5 stars
2.9 out of 5 stars
Meek's Cutoff [DVD] [2010]
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Price:£18.31+ £1.26 shipping

on 5 June 2015
this is an amazing film. The images look life they were made by Jean-François Millet if he were a cinematographer; the story is thoughtful, philosophical and gripping at the same time. A masterpiece by the great Kelly Reichert.
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on 13 October 2014
This isn't a movie but rather a cinematic poem about the journey made by early settlers looking for a passage west. Understated in every department, it makes no effort to impress with melodrama or action and is all the better for it. Not suitable for those with a low attention threshold seeking thrills and gunfire. Ignore the movie pleb one star reviews - if you enjoy considered cinema that isn't made for folk with the imaginative scope of a goldfish then this film comes recommended.
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on 27 March 2015
Be warned : This film will NOT be everyone's cup of tea because it lacks drama, pace, and plot. So why 4 stars ? In short, it's authentic and probably nearer the truth than most other westerns because it deliberately eschews all the usual clichés. I think that over time this film will be rated a masterpiece but for now its an acquired taste.
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on 21 March 2012
All you may not have read about The Trail....the drained colour, the monotony, the lurching uncertainty, the continual challenge to trust and to think logically in movement which saps initiative and clouds relationships..... it's all here in a subtle interplay between reason and faith. It is SO slow - and yet you need the time to think alongside the characters. It risks, and avoids, stereotyping. Above all, it leaves you wondering......yet if you wind back and look again, the answer is there all along. I have walked some (but driven most) of the trail to Oregon and I'm now going back to the writings of pioneer women which inspired me to do so. Take time to absorb and eventually the title makes sense!

PS DON'T view the 'making' featurette until you're ready to put the disc away.....
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on 12 September 2011
The Oregon Trail is more than folklore in the USA. It is real history. This film shows the day to day obstacles facing families heading west, their resourcefulness and their dogged determination. It is beautifully filmed in desert locations. With strong acting, and careful attention to detail Meek's Cutoff is entertaining, thought provoking and ultimately an essay on the role of women in the settlement of many parts the USA. Meek's Cuttoff is a real place. Even if you never get there, watch this film. You will I am sure as be fascinated as I was.
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on 25 November 2011
I suspect you'll either love or hate this film. I found it mesmerising and tantalising. In some of its elements it reminded me somewhat of von Herzog's "Aguirre Wrath of God", or possibly Roeg's "Walkabout". It is emphatically not an action film, or even a Western in any conventional sense of the genre. But unlike some reviewers here, I did find myself drawn into the fate of the small group of people: or rather, drawn into their sense of disconnection and the utter uncertainty of the immediate future. So I'd urge you to watch it and see if it grabs you or not: if nothing else you will be able to watch one of the best actresses in current movies (Michelle Williams)give a truly fine performance.
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on 13 August 2011
I saw this film on release a few months ago and found it a fascinating new approach to the "western", which slowly drew me in with its subtelty and refusal to abide by the usual conventions of the genre. I use that term loosely because this isn't really a western at all, more of an historical portrait of what a small wagon train in the west must have been like (it is based on a true story).
The promotional image on the original poster and the DVD is misleading: it shows Michelle Williams aiming a rifle, suggesting that you can expect some "action". You can't: no weapons are fired in anger and no one is shot. As someone has said, it ends abruptly and does not even tell you whether the pioneers survived - a good example of how it confounds expectations. It will annoy many people. The film does have things to say,though, especially about the place of women in that society and racism towards native Americans. It also looks fantastic.
It's an "art house" film, then (a horrible term I think) and not likely to appeal to or satisfy a large audience but judging by the discussion after seeing the film, those who saw it and went along with its slow pace and lack of "action", it encourages you to think about what you have seen
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on 30 August 2013
The movie starts out real slow. We watch the mundane tasks of the pioneers as they load water, wash dishes, grind meal...There is no introduction of characters. In fact they remain fairly plain. We hear and watch much of the important conversation from a distance catching bits and pieces. 3 devout families have hired Steven Meek, a slightly crusty man, to guide them to Oregon. He takes them into a high plains desert where they wander for weeks.

The men suspect Mr. Meek is deliberately attempting to get them lost as Oregon is an area in flux and may go to the English, depending on how many Americans settle there...or not. There is an Indian that pops up from time to time. Steven scares everyone with his Indian stories. Eventually they encounter the Indian and you think the story will pick up, but surprise! It doesn't.

The movie ends abruptly. From Meek's words, the film appears to be some sort of metaphor for life and fate as to what path to follow and who to trust, although for the life of me I can't really figure out what it is. The movie won all kinds of awards and I haven't figured that one out either. It was extremely boring. The dialouge was boring. The drama was boring. The people were boring. After a while, the scenery got boring. The squeak of the wagon wheel drove me crazy. Why anyone would waste their time watching this film is beyond me. It isn't accurate history. It is not art and it is not entertaining.
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VINE VOICEon 8 June 2014
Meek's Cut Off is a revisionist western,in that it depicts the movement of emigrants west in America who are full of doubts, trepidation,fear of the unknown,ignorance of the future.To cap it all they are being led by Stephen Meek(Bruce Greenwood) their guide,whose been hired to shepherd them over the Cascade Mountains.He has led them astray,and they start to distrust one another(there are 3 couples in separate wagons) and their guide.Their provisions are limited and they are short of water as they journey on the Oregon Trail.They seem to be wandering aimlessly astray,He boasts about his exploits and experiences,they mutter under their hats.

The revisionist western plays more emphasis on women and native Indians.Here the director Kelly Reichardt has placed the women in period bonnets and traditional clothes,stresses the daily labour and the monotony of that labour,the dry plains and the harsh conditions of the high desert,fetching wood,making fires,fetching water, cooking food.The use of oxens and period wagons gives us a sense of the frontier culture.She shoots from a distance,not in close up, in 4:3 aspect ratio that turns the vast Oregon plains claustrophobic;what's emphasised is stillness,silence,unforgiving landscapes.She slows her material to a crawl and drenches her action in ambiguity, to the point that the entire affair quickly becomes engulfed in moral/spiritual haziness. She flips the gender/ power balance so that Michelle Williams takes the lead in challenging Meek,whose idea of a short cut,has taken them away from water and over mountains.

When things don't go to plan the group is forced to put their trust in a native American who they have captured to lead them on-either to water or their deaths.The unhurried pace produces edginess,the focus on labour and ritual evokes the menacinghardship, the carrying of baskets and birdcages over their heads when crossing rivers, produces images of trance-like ominousness.Meek wants to kill the untrustworthy savage and this splits the group as Solomon(Will Paton),Emily's husband,says he may be their best chance of finding water.There is a battle to establish truth and facts in a world of prejudice and ignorance and a hostile natural world.The female protagonists are focussed on and their underlying alliance with the native Indian to create the underlying dissonance,despite his muted smile at a wagon's destruction.

There are no stand-out protagonists in this film,but Williams is shown to have a complexity,compassion as well as distrust,towards the Indian-as evidenced towards a late-act rifle show-down.Reichardt could be said to keep her characters at too distant a remove to fully engage us.Authenticity is highlighted and the uncertatinty about the motivations of its characters elevates the film to an investigation into the unsettling nature of the truth, especially with the film's masterful closing image which has no resolution but leaves its questions hanging in the air.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 November 2012
Kelly Reichardt's 2010 film provides an unusual take on the traditional Western tale of gun-toting cowboys and indians, instead providing a more studied depiction of a group of emigrating families trekking the Oregon Trail in 1845. Loosely based on a true incident occurring at this time in history, the film follows three families who have enlisted the services of enigmatic guide Stephen Meek to navigate a path across the desolate expanses of the American Midwest in order to build a future in the more fertile valleys in the west. In Meek's Cutoff, Reichardt (and regular screenwriter Jonathan Raymond) continue in the vein of previous films such as Wendy And Lucy and Old Joy, with another slow-moving, atmospheric and character-based tale of human relationships, albeit in this case such as they existed in America 150 years ago.

As the Tetherow, Gately and White families steer their wagon train (variously pulled by cattle and mules) across the bleak, arid landscape, their paranoia increases as a result of growing doubts concerning Meek's true intentions, together with the threat of attack from marauding indians. At all times, Recihardt's film is a stunning (if austere) piece of cinema, courtesy of Christopher Blauvelt's alternately lush and then intimate cinematography and Jeff Grace's sparse and haunting score. The depiction of the travellers' rustic (and archaic) existence is also acutely done, with the families asserting their religious convictions via family bible readings, whilst the inherent sexism of the times is reinforced as the women take a backseat, leaving the men to debate the key navigational decisions. Acting-wise, for me the honours go to Bruce Greenwood's surly and bigoted portrayal of Meek and to Will Patton as Soloman Tetherow, perhaps the most enlightened and humane of the travelling party. However, with a cast that also includes Michelle Williams, Paul Dano and Shirley Henderson, there are no weak acting turns, albeit the studied nature of the material here means there are also relatively few moments of high emotion.

The film's key narrative development occurs when the party happen upon a lone American Indian/Native American - also well played by Rod Rondeaux - thus stirring up heated (and conflicting) emotions between Meek and Tetherow (with Soloman's partner, Michelle Williams' Emily impressively brandishing an antiquated firearm in order to prevent Meek carrying out a summary execution). Once the group have decided that their new 'passenger' might be able to lead them to a desperately required source of water, the film begins to present an interesting study of humanity, trust and suspicion (which can, no doubt, be interpreted as applying to both ancient and current American social history). Perhaps unfortunately, courtesy of its ending, the film does not fully conclude on these themes, but nevertheless Meek's Cutoff still presents one of the most original recent takes on the traditional western (probably since Robert Altman's McCabe And Mrs Miller, in fact).
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