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Meek's Cutoff (2010)

PG | | Drama, Western | 15 April 2011 (UK)
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Settlers traveling through the Oregon desert in 1845 find themselves stranded in harsh conditions.

Director:

Kelly Reichardt

Writer:

Jonathan Raymond (screenplay) (as Jon Raymond)
7 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Michelle Williams ... Emily Tetherow
Bruce Greenwood ... Stephen Meek
Will Patton ... Soloman Tetherow
Zoe Kazan ... Millie Gately
Paul Dano ... Thomas Gately
Shirley Henderson ... Glory White
Neal Huff ... William White
Tommy Nelson ... Jimmy White
Rod Rondeaux Rod Rondeaux ... The Indian
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Storyline

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. Written by Oscilloscope

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Western

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for some mild violent content, brief language and smoking | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

15 April 2011 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Meek's Oregon 1845 Cutoff See more »

Filming Locations:

Oregon, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$20,042, 10 April 2011, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$977,600, 21 August 2011
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Actors went through a week of Pioneer Camp. See more »

Goofs

In an early scene with the three women walking, there was abundant Russian thistle on the ground. The film was set in 1845, but Russian thistle (Salsola tragus) wasn't introduced to the United States until arriving in South Dakota in 1870 or 1874, as weed seed in flaxseed imported from Russia. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jimmy White: [reading from Genesis] In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Maltin on Movies: Awards Special 2012 (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

Nearer, My God, To Thee
(uncredited)
Written by Sarah F. Adams and Lowell Mason
Performed by Neal Huff
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User Reviews

A slow but rewarding journey
27 May 2011 | by jdesandoSee all my reviews

It's the Oregon Trail, 1845, and nothing much is happening to a lost wagon train of three families. It's the film Meek's Cutoff, and mountain man Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood) is the guide whose cutoff has landed the voyagers without water and no idea where to get it or to their destination, traversing the Cascades.

As in any good seafaring tale where all you have is the ship as microcosm, so too this meager setup is rife with life or death problems, one of which is what route to take and the other what to do with a captured Native American (Rondeaux), who may or may not be helping them find their way to water. You just can't tell. Killing him is what Meeks suggests; sparing him is the decision Emily (Michelle Williams) makes with her gun pointed at Meeks as he prepares to shoot the Indian. Although she can't really qualify in the current Hanna, Lisbeth Salander kick-butt motif, Emily is impressive for her courage.

A story that begins with reading from Genesis about the Garden of Eden is asking for allegorical interpretation along the lines of man's sinfulness and the dangers free will poses. Along the way is a discussion about trust, not in the Lord, but in Meek or the Indian, representing two poles of thought about survival, and to whom the passengers must make allegiance as they decide which direction to go on. It's not difficult to see the universal applications about decisions we make and trust we honor.

Director Kelly Reichart keeps a steady Terrence Malick hand in it all, showing sunny, sweeping, barren landscapes where hope and despair can travel together and low-key hovels inside tents and under cliffs, where little hope can live with so little light. Even the landscapes are imprisoning as she sometimes seems to use a box-like aspect ratio rather than the wide screen almost always used in Westerns.

Sometimes it seems like Days of Heaven or Badlands, and other times it is its own moral landscape, slowly exposing the feeble underpinning of civility, which crumbles in the face of Meek's prejudice and the demands of survival.

Just don't look for an easy solution: Reichart is quite good at forcing you to ask what you would have done. She's giving no help as you make your cutoff to a better life.


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