This could have been a very moving epic...but epics generally require a large budget. This was definitely NOT a high-dollar production, and I felt, watching it, that it was kind of rushed out in order to try and catch the wave of Mormon cinema successes that happened a few years ago. Unfortunately, this resulted in a weak script, location selections that just don't resemble the terrain they're supposed to depict, and a lot of scenes where the number of pioneers leaving the city far outnumbered the crowds watching them go.
Some of the acting was good, most was so-so...and some of it was pretty atrocious (they REALLY should have had a dialect coach...) Given the limits of location, the cinematography was skilled, though it seemed more often to be trying to avoid showing too much in the background, rather than showing enough of the foreground.
In terms of story--well, if you're looking for a good, stirring tale of conversion, this isn't it. The story felt very contrived to me, and I found myself far more interested in the stories of the secondary characters than the leads. I think it is, however, noteworthy that this script doesn't try and sway the viewer to a pro-Mormon standpoint. The characters we follow through the tale are all extremely human, with moments of heroism, crises of faith, burdens of self-doubt, and all the other baggage humanity tends to carry around. This is, ultimately, the best thing about the story.
They should have taken some more time, done a few more re-writes, and rounded up some more funding before they tackled this one. It tries to tell what was, in reality, a very moving and tragic tale (the Martin Handcart company, which failed to reach Salt Lake before winter hit, resulting in one of the most catastrophic endeavors in the westward expansion of the U.S.) by focusing on the stories of just a few members of the company--but it's kind of like moose-hunting with a .22. Unless you hit JUST the right spot, it doesn't work. And they didn't hit the spot.
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