Meek's Cutoff (2010) Poster


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The least you need to know
jmc476918 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is much loved by the critics, but you know there is some kind of problem when the critics meter on stands at 87 while the audience meter is at 65. Personally, I don't think it's a bad movie, but before you decide to see it, you at least need to know that:

--It is a very minimalist movie, even more so than Somewhere (which I loved). You don't even get a good look at the actors' faces until 15 minutes or so into the movie. The dialog is so sparse that the actors probably didn't need to start studying the script until the night before shooting began. (Don't be fooled by the trailer--it contains most of the dialog in the movie.) The screen is almost completely black in the many barely illuminated night scenes. You can hear the dialog, but you can't see much of their faces or see what they are doing. Although these scenes are highly realistic, the director seems to have forgotten that film is a visual medium. And too much of the dialog is unintelligible. I couldn't decide whether the problem was poor enunciation by the actors, poor placement of the microphones, or both.

--This is one of those "make up your own ending" movies. After you spend 104 minutes watching these people trek through a parched landscape looking for water, you long for answers. The dramatic tension in the movie arises primarily from not knowing whether the Indian they have captured will lead them to water or into a fatal ambush. But don't expect any clear-cut resolution. Yes, there are clues at the end. But some viewers will be unhappy to discover that there is no unambiguous answer to the central question of the movie.

With that said, I still think Meek's Cutoff is worth seeing because it gives you a good feel for what life was like in a wagon train. The film is not so much a drama as a reenactment of life on the trail. No matter that the dialog is sparse. No matter that there is no real ending. The director isn't much interested in character development or storyline anyway. She just wants to put you in the shoes of these pioneers for a few days. And on this level, the movie works very well. Although it may not be entertaining (after all, life on the trail was boring most of the time), it is informative.
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To slow and never ending
mickerick200014 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
for me it was a complete let down.. For 2 hours i watched them walk along the desert and i was wondering will they find water, Who will be the first to die and will the Indian lead them to water or an ambush. Well the film finished and i had none of the answers so what was the point of the film? why put questions in your head then leave you to make your own answers.Maybe we were supposed to re-live the way settlers made the journey but surely if you walk through Indian country you have someone ahead scouting for water or Indians and who would keep a heavy table in a wagon and leave gold in the desert and how did they mark it ? a stick with some cloth wrapped around it, They were lost how they gonna find it again they had no map come-on they would have filled just about everything they had.Im sorry but to me it was like watching a fish swim around a bowl,I waited for a climax and didn't get one,The most exiting thing in the whole film was an empty wagon rolling down a hill
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Beautiful non-narrative film
Nikolai196811 December 2011
It is interesting reading all of these angry people here, who seem to appreciate having seen an amazing film but don't understand why it does not have a 'three act structure' or Hero's journey. If you are a fan of early Michael Haneke or even Tarkovsky (to a lesser extent), then you will like this film. It is a very gentle observational piece which takes its time to even let you hear human voices. It wants you to feel the wind on the scrub desert or to hear the bubbling of the river.

To make a film like that, especially in America where the audience is weened on cleanly prepared stories that have beginnings, middles and ends, is brave, stubborn and amazingly lucky that Kelly Reichardt was able to raise the money to make it.

Fantastic. Unique, Beautiful.

But just do not expect to be 'told' what happens next, because nothing massively important actually does. Just like life really.
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An unorthodox take on the Western
dharmendrasingh15 April 2011
Its unorthodox – 'revisionist' – take on the Western will stimulate more debate than the story itself. It's sure to be praised for its presumed artistic qualities, but I watch Westerns for their brio and sense of fun, never as art.

My verdict is that 'Meek's Cutoff' is slow – definitely slow and not 'well-paced' – desultory and monotonous. And yet every time the film was on the cusp of being disengaging, it did something to regain my attention. I saw the film twice and still couldn't decide what it was about. This is a film of suggestion. We're responsible for how the story ends.

After a wordless opening, we encounter a motley crew, some Irish but mostly American. They're being escorted, along with their few wagons, donkeys, horses and oxen, across the beautiful and baleful Oregon plains to a valley, where we assume they will settle. Their escort is Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), a loquacious, over-friendly cowboy, who has a tacit propensity for violence.

An etching by one of the band (prolific youngster Paul Dano) on a dead tree updates us on their progress: 'Lost' (something inhabitants never are in Westerns; their sense of geography is always mind-bogglingly good). They've been travelling for several days in the wrong direction and are in desperate need of water. Meek insists they will reach their destination soon.

Film factotum Kelly Reichardt, here director and editor, keeps us in the dark for much of the film. The camera pans back when there is conversation. What dialogue we do hear is muffled and limited (or incomprehensible when spoken by Meek). It's like we're eavesdropping and aren't supposed to know something.

A solitary Native American is spotted. His presence in these deathly quiet lands frightens the band. He is captured by Meek and Solomon Tetherow (Will Patton). Some argue that he will lead them to more Indians, so should be killed; but Solomon reasons that he can be used to lead them to water and their destination.

The band continues their voyage, taking 'The Indian' with them. Still nothing happens. Gradually, an ominous sense creeps in, made palpable by Jeff Grace's eerie score and Chris Blauvelt's atmospheric cinematography. (Both men have played second fiddle on big films, but show their competence as lead fiddlers here.) Suddenly the possibilities abound. Is that a smile 'The Indian' affects when one of the wagons is demolished? Does he plan to ambush them? Will the band ever reach the valley?

Apart from film students and die-hard Western fans, I can't tell who to recommend this critically acclaimed film to. I found the vistas beautiful to behold and I appreciated the tranquility. There's a faintly mystical quality. But I found it plodding and I can't forgive the ending, which I thought was criminally abrupt.
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NHUpnorth15 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This sort of film makes me wonder whether the critics actually saw the film before telling us it was "worthy" of our viewing. I have been to eastern Oregon. Yes, it's mainly desert. I suppose there were people foolish enough to try to cross in summer during the 1840s under the guidance of a less-than-trustworthy guide. But who cares? There wasn't any sense of adventure -- just non-stop wandering, blaming and worrying.

Watching this film was a seemingly endless journey of its own. Maybe that's why some people like it: the feeling of desperation is captured well enough. The pioneers were desperate to get to their destination, moving through the same colorless frame, scene after scene after scene; the five people in the theater with me were desperate to get this movie behind them, scene after scene. I have literally enjoyed watching paint dry more than watching this movie; at least painting is creative and useful. This film may appeal to those with a lot of time to waste.
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Meek's Cutoff
MartinTeller30 December 2011
It is telling that Reichardt chose to shoot this film in Academy ratio. Right away we know this will not be a romantic image of the Old West, with breathtaking, expansive vistas (although the cinematography is lovely in its own way). Instead, we are constricted, claustrophobic, uncertain of what lies just beyond our limited field of vision. It is a film of quiet desperation, hard-scrabble survival in painstaking detail, and growing mistrust. In some ways it evokes the horror genre, perhaps something like a subdued BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, as the severity of the situation deepens and doubt takes hold. The film manages a sense of gritty realism without resorting to overstating the harsh conditions for dramatic effect. The travelers aren't stumbling around filthy and bloody, they maintain a semblance of civility even as the promise of civilization seems more and more doubtful. The ending will no doubt frustrate many, but didn't bother me one bit.

As for the cast, Michelle Williams impresses me again with her thoughtful restraint, and I'm always pleased to see Shirley Henderson. Greenwood does well with a part that could easily have called too much attention to itself, and for once I didn't hate Paul Dano. The score is wonderful, as haunting and sparse as the landscape. I adored WENDY AND LUCY, and quite liked OLD JOY (in fact, that film seems better in hindsight than I gave it credit for). Reichardt is emerging as one of American cinema's most distinctive and worthwhile voices. I look forward to her next endeavor.
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What will Meek inherit?
crazy-bananas24 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Meek (Bruce Greenwood) is guiding three married couples and a few 'young uns' across the frontiers of 19th century America. His 'cutoff' refers to a shortcut that he has led them on in their route to their new homes and fortunes. Before they get there, they must deal with the guide's apparent lack of skills and direction, and what they will encounter along the way. Greenwood turns in a very good performance, in that he is extremely unlikeable, but I think it is fair to say that this film is stolen by the two performances of Michelle Williams and Shirley Henderson, both very well suited to their roles. Some critics have deemed the film a little too slow, but I think that is unfair - the pace is perfect, given the audience is accompanying horses and wagons. If you liked 'Old Joy' by the same director, you should enjoy her new work (if you didn't see it you should check it out). Dialogue is sparse, but there is a lot of meaning in the things the characters say - the ending is open to interpretation, so thinking about what you've heard may point you in the right direction.
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A near masterpiece
ecstatic-tickle22 April 2011
'Who knows what's over that hill? Could be water, could be an army of heathens…blood or water' – the words of Stephen Meek, a hardened pioneer of the Western front, whose name is more than a slight contradiction of character. The year is 1845 and Meek is the guide for members of three families who have left the settlements on the thriving Eastern Seaboard of America and are now undertaking the last leg of their long journey, through Oregon desert. Although they are at the brink of their destination – the uncertainty of their route, the need for food and water, and more than anything the threat of Indigenous tribes – is deeply felt.

Kelly Reichardt has been an intriguing presence on the independent scene for several years now. While sparse and potentially esoteric, her previous films Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy felt very unique, rich in atmosphere and subtext. This one, shot in the 4:3 aspect ratio – this is clearly not about gorgeous panoramic Western vistas, but an arid environment and sense of isolation, constriction and fear that the characters can't escape. The cinematography is enveloping – every image and sound has clarity of intent and authenticity that's impressive, but not mechanical, there's a level of artistry here that's seamless.

Reichardt has done a remarkable job. The way in which we first encounter this group has an almost voyeuristic dimension. We observe them bringing their belongings across the river, cages and basket across, a woman pregnant. The classic wagon vehicle. We see the necessity they feel to wade through and continue on their journey no matter what. Reichardt's not interested in fulfilling the conventions of the genre or even screen writing at large – nothing is indicated, nothing is too obvious – and the decisions she makes in terms structure and thematic elements are felt on a subliminal level, right up until the final shot. By defying expectations of the genre and her film becomes all the more engrossing.

This is quite a simple story about people with simple customs and practical needs – driven by a need to fulfill their 'Manifest Destiny' – the inherent right they feel to colonize this new land. Setting off on the journey, Meek himself tries to enforce his high status, telling the youngsters cautionary tales of bears and brutes and emitting a seemingly affable macho persona. For the rest of the group, there is a sense of communal obligation and not too much time for soul-searching or camaraderie. Reichardt does not draw attention to anything - whether it be the name actors she has playing these very pared down roles or the multitude of themes and messages running beneath the surface.

Among the eclectic ensemble of actors in the film is Michelle Williams, Reichardt's muse previously on Wendy and Lucy – who continues to go from strength to strength in proving her versatility and conviction as an actress. Here she plays Emily Tethero – a young mother on this trek, and eventual moral compass for the audience. She's invisible in the role - in the best sense; there is no big announcement or introductory close-up of her arrival on screen as 'Two-Time Academy Award®-nominee Michelle Williams', now playing dress-up in the desert – the blatant heroine of the piece. No, Reichardt is smart and knows how to treat the audience with intelligence, she does not indicate anything. However, as the narrative unfolds, Emily's increasing speculation over their route, her concerns about water and private ideas of gender roles makes her an adversary for Meek.

These tensions come to a head however when they encounter a Native American Indian. From the moment this happens – Williams' character immediately decides to take very practical action to the threat. But soon enough this Cherokee man becomes a possession for the group, an entity they fear so intensely yet cannot let go of – they interrogate him to find out the route, to know of any more like him who may attempt to destroy. The fear of the Other is palpable and the ultimate intent of the film is revealed.

However, Emily Tethero is the one who listens to him – she hears him praying despite not understanding his words, she also repairs his shoe. She begins to become more lenient with him, despite her upbringing and societal beliefs. As the group's situation begins to become more desperate - these various gestures and allowances enrage Meek – with a turbulent dynamic beginning to form and some consequence and yet it never descends into hysterics.

If the job of the artist is to deepen the mystery - then Kelly Reichardt has succeeded. By the end of this film there are no clear answers. There is no sense of the world being set to rights by this story, the film does not presume that what it is has to say about race relations (still relevant in 2011 and beyond) is closing the book on the topic, not for the characters, nor the audience. The film is not about these people's ultimate destination because the sense of closure and satisfaction felt at the end of most movies is an illusion - an entertaining one, which we can suspend our disbelief to enjoy, but an illusion nonetheless. Here that kind of compromise is not necessary, and to witness this on screen is like a window into the past.
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Hard Not To Like But...........
samkan24 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I decided to watch this film because I'm familiar with the historical version, wherein the scout Meek led over 200 wagon and over 1000 pioneers on a disaster filled "short cut". That the maker of this film went with 3 wagons and 7 people indicates she, admirably, wants to talk about human nature, folly, etc., not shoot'em up adventure.

The first scenes of this movie immediately advise that patience is a prerequisite. The numerous panoramic shots throughout indeed are effective in conveying the arduousness, boredom and anxiety that the American pioneers experienced, and this aspect alone make MEEK'S CUTOFF noteworthy. But even more noteworthy is the depiction of what I believe is the maker's rather clear intent: To show how individual character and flaws influence the reasoning and decisions we make in everyday life. Our pioneers face the same obstacles in this movie. Their disparate reactions, varied in hopes, motivations and intent, provide an interesting contrast. This contrast is subtle and realistic ( as opposed to the heavy handedness of your average movie) and makes MEEK'S CUTOFF a success. But.........

I like to believe I'm a sophisticated film snob and can/will appreciate abrupt endings that might frustrate the "moron masses" (as Alfred Hitchcock referred to the movie-going public). I'm indeed ordinary stuff. Just far too abrupt an ending here. I can handle an ending that leaves us guessing at the pioneers' fate. I was/am unhappy with MEEK'S CUTOFF ending at a point when the characters's motivations and beliefs are unfinished works.
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Goes Nowhere, Means Nothing
mauvemoonlight2 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
If you enjoy watching films that have absolutely no conclusion to them whatsoever - then this is the movie for you.

It crawls along at a snail's pace, moving as slowly as the wagons that were going westward and it has no ending. We just walk along with these desperate people mile after gritty mile getting nowhere.

The characters are so poorly formed and so poorly introduced to the audience, I never did really sort out who all of them were, or their relationships to each other. As it turned out it didn't make a hair's worth of difference.

Several of the scenes are at night, where the screen is so black you wonder if the film broke.

The plot, what little there was, involves three wagons of people going westward. We have one couple that has a young boy named Jimmy, another couple with an older man and younger woman, apparently fairly newly married. The third couple I never got acquainted with enough to know who they were or anything about them, not that we ever learn much about any of these people. One of the women is pregnant but like everything else in this movie this fact plays no role in the film - either in character development, plot or anything else.

There is also their guide, a Mr. Meek, with a bushy beard and even bushier hair down to his shoulders. His hair looked as if it had not seen a comb since the day he was born.

Meek has apparently convinced these 3 wagon loads into taking some shortcut, but the further they go with him the more they doubt he has a clue as to where they're at.

They encounter a lone Indian and have hopes perhaps he will lead them eventually to water, although some of them are convinced he will lead them into an ambush. He goes stumbling off and they go stumbling after him. Then after several miles of this, we come to the words "The End." This has to be one of the worst films I've ever seen.

ONE STAR - and it really doesn't even deserve that.
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A Cuckoo Tease of a Movie
BaiNst6 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
If you like nearly two hours of dramatic build up with no climax, you will enjoy this film. From the first two laborious shots of a wagon train crossing a river, you can easily guess what you're in for...but if you've seen the trailer, you might be hoping for more. Unfortunately, what there is of characterization and hints at a plot are only window dressing for a two hour distilled view of what it was like to travel in a wagon train in the 1850s. **Spoiler Alert**: It sucked.

I've marked this review as having spoilers, because I'm going to tell you the details of the film, but in revealing them, it's not much more of a spoiler than telling you that a police drama is going to have guns and crime in it. This movie has lots and lots and lots of walking, dust, and concerns over having enough water. That's it. There's some great acting, and some nice cinematography, but there is little insight into the human condition (no more than you might get from sitting on a bench at the local mall for two hours...possibly less). There are two or three tense scenes, but they all, just like the movie as a whole, come to nothing.

I had a second review for this movie in mind, because after seeing the ending, I saw a very obvious connection to ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. The writer basically dressed Nurse Ratched in a beard and made the inmates into a wagon train; their search for sanity is now a quest for proto-Portland; and the symbol of the suffocating pillow is replaced by a lone tree.

I can only guess that the writer could not come up with any ending that wasn't obvious, and opted instead for having no ending at all. "Let the viewer decide" is something I can enjoy in a few movies, but with the constant build up of tension in this movie, the ending felt more like an unfulfilled promise.
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I blame him for saying he did.
Spikeopath23 August 2011
Meek's Cutoff is directed by Kelly Reichardt and written by Jonathan Raymond. It stars Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Will Paton, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson, Neal Huff, Zoe Kazan and Tommy Nelson. Music is by Jeff Grace and cinematography by Chris Blauvelt. Story is based on an historical incident on the Oregon Trail in 1845, when frontier guide Stephen Meek (Greenwood) led a small band of settlers across the trail in search of richer pastures. For what was meant to be a two week journey, has now turned into five, and the settlers have this horrible feeling that Meek is lost. With no end to the journey in sight, low on food and water, and becoming ravaged by the terrain, the group starts to come apart at the seams.

Those familiar with Kelly Reichardt's work, Old Joy/Wendy & Lucy, will have some idea that Meek's Cutoff was never going to be a traditional Western picture. Often cited as a low-key, minimalist, director, Reichardt has stripped the Western right back to craft a beautifully shot film dealing with the hardships endured both physically and mentally of three families out on the Oregon Trail. Opening without dialogue for the opening seven minutes, where the first voice we hear is that of a child reading Tree of Life, tone is set from the off. We are asked to fill in the blanks ourselves, but it's evident that the group are in trouble, they already look haggard, afraid and near desperation. From here dialogue is as sparse as the terrain they traverse, the wagons crawl at pace, and so to does the film, a slow pace that remains throughout. The interest is all about the characters and their reactions to the situations that arise, no soft soaping or corner cutting, it's stark and uncompromising.

This is a different Wild West, the characters are etched into a parched, sun-bleached landscape, there's no romanticism here, just emotional turmoil, it's like the group are in purgatory, desperately trying to reach that Tree of Life on the other side of yet another obstacle. Shot in the 1.33 aspect ratio, this neatly puts the characters front and centre, most tellingly the women, who are the crux of Meek's Cutoff. This viewpoint gives the film a further lift out of the norm, deftly observing the family based woman's place in the West. One of a number of indelible moments in the piece sees the men move away from the women, who have to observe from distance as the men make the crucial decisions, left holding onto the last vestiges of the civilisation left behind, it says so much without actually doing much, something that Meek's Cutoff thrives on.

The acting is superb, with Williams, Paton and Greenwood leading the way. This collection of thespians really inhabit their roles, giving the film conviction. Conviction born out by Blauvelt's yellow and brown ochres. Grace's music is also sparse, but telling in a film that mostly deals in quiet conversations, or the natural sounds of wheels turning and tin cups clanking. It's finely detailed and the director wants us to not only examine said details, but also to be part of them. It has already proved to be a most divisive picture, something that is very understandable, even to someone like myself who has been beguiled by it. Where some see a slow crawl where nothing much happens, others see a rich human interest journey where the complete opposite is the case. Regardless of how it eventually works out for the viewer, it remains a film that serious Western fans simply have to see and evaluate. 9/10
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Understated gem redefines the Western genre
paparidgeback4 August 2015
Earlier tonight I described "Meek's Cutoff" (2010) to a friend as "For fans of independent films, it's 104 minutes of licking the icing off chocolate cake." Director Kelly Reichardt redefines the Western genre with this somber tale of three families crossing the Oregon badlands together by covered wagon in 1845, but don't let the seemingly dull and uninteresting setup dissuade you from watching: the story isn't found within words or in tracking shots following bonnet-adorned women trudging in the dust behind creaking wagons, but in the unspoken complications of the characters' interaction and mistrust of each other as their situation deteriorates from unpleasant and exhausting (imagine walking across the desert to Oregon) to urgent, life-threatening and desperate.

Many viewers will lose patience and give up in the middle of the second reel, complaining that the pacing is "too slow" or that "nothing's happening" or that "it's not interesting at all." But that is asking to have your cake and eat it too, and all at once. Meek's Cutoff does not reward its audience with immediate Hollywood-style gratification, or hand-hold impatient viewers by offering pat explanations and solutions, neither does it pander to the popcorn crowd by including gratuitous romantic side plots or wild West-style gunfights and shootouts.

Tension, fear and anxiety must be purposefully assembled, element by unsettling element, if our suspension of disbelief is to support the terrible weight of dread, or joy, that lies just over the horizon. Or does it? But certainly tomorrow will deliver the answer beyond the next ridge. Surely we'll know by the end of the day ... or will we? readers gave Meek's Cutoff just 6.5 stars. I'm giving it 9, and each one is solid gold.
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You might find some interesting things along the way but they are very few and very far
eshwarmail6 January 2017
Reviewed May 2011

It is as real as a movie can get but as boring too. It sets the tense mood and the look of the period perfectly and the discomfort the characters feel with their situation is easily connecting.

In 1845, a group of settlers looking for a place sets out to cross the desert acquiring help from a Stephen Meek. Well into their journey, they realize they might be lost. Not too keen on confronting Mr. Meek, they play along the route he takes them. Once the water runs out and with no idea of the next source, the inherent character of each traveler starts to show. To add to the drama, they catch and hold a stalking Indian as a prisoner. Unsure of his intentions, the group is in a dilemma either to kill him or seek help from him.

It starts quite leisurely setting the foundation for the rest of the movie. It glances through the routine of each person as well as introduces them. The pace hardly picks up as it move excruciatingly slow for the rest of the movie. Though it is intentional, it seems a content worth for 30 minutes is dragged to a feature length. Watch it only if you have nothing else better to do. The performances are decent from most and Michelle Williams characteristics reminds a bit of Evangeline Lily from Lost.

You might find some interesting things along the way but they are very few and very far.
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More than artistic vision. Reality of the west.
jjnoahjames17 March 2012
What shines; There are a lot of interesting tricks pulled by the director that you haven't seen before. At times I was very shocked and amazed at the reality of what these people went through on the Oregon Trial.

What blinds; One word. Slow. besides that your not going to find any happy or eccentrically gay characters here. The characters are pretty basic but Michell Williams and Will Patton are enjoyable along with the rest of the cast.

I gave this film a 9. The average American won't agree but if you're in to artistic movies, good acting, and nice aura based movies you will enjoy this.

I always enjoy this style film which is similar to There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men.

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skysearch20 August 2011
We'd heard good reviews, and went to go see at the local independent film theater. Gosh, it would be great to pass along some interesting or insightful comments; maybe a few deep thoughts ... but quite simply, it was shockingly void of any meaningful content. I honestly can't recall a film where less happens. Apparently, there is a segment of the population that enjoys silent plodding through the desert, but we don't occupy that demographic.

We waited, waited, waited... and just when it finally seemed something significant was about to unfold, the credits rolled. Darn!

Unfortunately, the most memorable thing about this film was the one actress' bizarre "chipmunk like" voice. Though water was scarce, it seems there was no shortage of helium.

Very strange.
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Not really worth the time
dtpieper26 August 2011
Very few movies are worth only 1 out of ten. In this case it is because of my disappointment when discovering I had wasted almost two hours on a film that is rated 7 (at the time of writing this) while there is nothing to merit that high score.

I think the review by BoomerMovieFan1 is very accurate so read it and you will understand all my reasons for not liking this movie (and disagree if you have to)...

To cut it short: 1) No one speaks for the first 15 min's 2) Nothing really happens until almost 40 min's into the film when a new character is introduced (uh-oh, drama!). 3) A wagon crashes about an hour into the film 4) And then the movie ends without any climax - it simply just ends just when you think you get the answers that kept you watching it to the end.

And the lone star is for that achievement: to make the viewer stay to the end, thinking: "there surely must be more to it than this?!"
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Goes Nowhere throughout
shaunthomas3130 October 2011
The movie was always going to be a slow starter from the length of time before any dialogue but this actually didn't start and ended without any conclusion. I've was amazed when the end credits came up because nothing had happened all through the film.

If I had an hour and a half of my life to waste I would spend it watching re-runs of an old comedy series that I'd seen a thousand times rather than watch this drivel again. I can honestly say that I have never been so disappointed with a movie and I watch a lot of movies.

My main reason for watching this was because of the good rating on IMDb but I'll check other sources in the future if this is what gets a 6.8 on here.
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Best film of 2010
vsdobbs3 May 2011
Everything about this film is glorious.

As much as I loved the Coens' True Grit, Meek's Cutoff is the better western. It was the best film I saw at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival and the best film I saw all year, period. It is graceful and understated, sublime and far-reaching. The cinematography is wonderful, the performances spot-on; I contacted the composer directly, eager to purchase the score. I wrote to the director with my thanks for making the picture.

True, this movie is not for everyone. There are no action scenes; there are no shouting matches or shootouts. It's simple on its surface, but has great depth for those who are willing to look for it. It expects you to meet it half-way. The ending is both definitive and ambiguous.

The spoon-feeding that the other IMDb reviewers were looking for? (You know, the ones who can't spell or mix up their homonyms?) Not there. Wrong film.

See this if you like the films of the sixties and seventies. See this if you know who Monte Hellman is or Jerry Schatzberg. See this if you can imagine a Cassavetes film with much less dialogue or a Hal Ashby film with much less hope.

Don't spend your time on this if you can easily rattle off the names of dozens of American films to have wow'd you this past decade. It won't be for you and you'll come here and rag on the picture with your angry, misspelled ramblings.
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descartesrock13 November 2011
Do not watch this movie. It is the worst movie I have ever seen! The acting is alright I guess, but the characters are stereotypical. There is no arc in the plot; absolutely nothing happens. I kept thinking during the movie that it was going to get better and something was going to happen that made me think, "Oh, yes this movie is worth watching just because of that scene." But no, there was nothing like that. It was long, uneventful and unoriginal.

And don't get me started about the end. There WAS no end! It ended so abruptly and there were no questions answered. Some may say it was a cliff hanger... if it was, then is was a fail at one. It seemed like they just had no money left to finish the movie so they decided that the ending scene was a good enough place to stop. Horrible... just horrible. Let me tell you, I am all for the low budget, independent movies; I find those actually often better then the Hollywood movies. But this was just bad. That's all I have to say, and if you don't believe me (maybe because of the pretty good reviews it got) then go and watch it. Waste more then an hour of your life watching this movie with absolutely no substance.
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slow paced but you dwell on it for days afterward
DarleneBicycle1011 June 2011
I have many friends who don't like most of the high tech movies that involve car races, shoot um ups, special effects & overall fast pace.

well, here is a movie for you! Slow & easy it is You take a small group of travelers in 3 covered wagons & experience what it was like 150+ years ago for the folks who settled the rugged and undeveloped areas of our country.

Wandering travelers and dependent on a guide who is "lost" and then a captured Indian who is questionable in where he leads. No real communication with the language barrier.

It wasn't pretty. But they did not know much different and had the simpler life in every way imaginable. For those who long for the "good old days" I think this exemplifies that the nostalgic images lack reality At the end we don't know if the party survived, if a baby was born and lived, if the Indian took pity (if it was an ambush) on the brave woman who defended and protected him.

I can envision a sequel with the story narrated by the young boy in the party as an adult looking back. The photography is very rich and tells a story of its own. The music is bold and beautiful. The acting is very well done & well cast.

In a way I was disappointed after I saw it but then in reflection decided I was very amazed with what was conveyed and the real impact it had on me. Not a movie for everyone but a well done work of art
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Like "Somewhere" on the trail
macktan89421 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I wasn't a big fan of the film "Somewhere"; if its purpose was to show the emptiness of life, it succeeded. Meek's Cutoff resembles Somewhere in that not a whole hell of a lot happens. A group of settlers hires a guide to take them over the Oregon Trail. The experienced guy tries for a shortcut and gets everybody lost. Now this is where I first napped--when I woke up, the settlers had captured a Comanche and were debating whether to kill him or force him to help them find their way and also find water.

There is really little to spoil in this film--that, in fact, may be a spoiler in itself.
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Too bad there was not a GPS...
deloudelouvain26 February 2015
It's not the traditional western with the usual villains and good cowboys, with the shooting, the saloons etc. But it's a story about the first settlers on their way to Oregon. It's nice to see the rough life they had like 150 years ago. It was for sure not a trip for the weak with the constant struggle and searching for water. The movie is nicely shot and along with the good actors it makes the movie enjoyable and realistic. If you are looking for a western with the traditional shootings then this one is not for you. There is not a lot of meaningful conversations but it all adds up to the story. I only gave it a six just because of the ending that I didn't like that much. For the rest I enjoyed the movie.
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We're not lost. We're just a little locationally challenged
tieman6410 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"Everything arises in this way, opposites from their opposites." - Plato

"Meek's Cutoff" stars Michelle Williams and Will Patton as a husband and wife who travel from Missouri to Oregon during the 1840s. Leading them, and several other families, is Stephen Meek, a frontier guide who may or may not be completely lost.

"Cutoff" was directed by Kelly Reichardt, whose previous films ("Wendy and Lucy", "Old Joy") might best be described as "offbeat" or "failed" road-movies. Whilst the road-movie typically charts a character's growth, progress or a slow rites of passage, Reichardt's journeys subvert the genre. Her characters reach stagnation, impasses, and often find themselves lost, trapped in hopeless situations or becoming allegories for a certain political impotency. At best, the trails Reichardt's characters find themselves on lead nowhere useful in particular. At worst, they dangerously double back on themselves, advancement impossible.

"Cutoff's" opening scene condenses Reichardt's themes. We see a waggon convoy, led by men, crossing a river. Women carrying birdcages above their heads soon follow. These motifs permeate the entire film: men lead whilst women and animals dutifully follow, burdens in tow. Mirroring the caged bids are the women's large bonnets, which reduce or "cage" peripheral vision and which bleed into the film's 4:3 aspect ratio, which cuts off one's "view" to the left and the right and so telescopes vision, not dissimilar to animal-blinders. Reichardt's point is clear. These women, like beasts of burden, trudge ahead, conditioned to follow singular path's blazed by men. "The square aspect ratio gives you an idea of the women's closed view; the loneliness of their journeys," Reichardt herself says interviews. But the 4:3 aspect ratio also subverts the western genre itself, which is oft associated with widescreen landscapes and vast frontiers, all presented as gladiatorial spaces to be mastered and/or tamed. For Reichardt, though, the genre's rugged individualism and promises of freedom are reversed; her vistas become nooses which tighten.

Some have labelled "Meek's Cutoff" "feminist", but it's also simply a correct representation of the mid 1800s. Reichardt's female characters aren't privy to the hushed conversations of the film's men. They're separated from the men, have no say in debates and are shown to tend to traditionally masculine jobs as well as traditionally feminine, domestic duties. Men walk and toil, women walk and toil with pregnant stomachs.

Unsurprisingly, "Cutoff's" character names are mostly symbolic. One family is literally called "the Whites", whilst one man, Soloman, literally becomes the only worthwhile man of the film, his wife headstrong and made privy, by him, to the group's debates and manoeuvrings. Then there's Stephen Meek, presented as an iconic trapper and potent male leader (he talks of glorious conquests, achievements, his killing of Indians and female bears etc) and who literally tethers the film's families (one of whom is called the Tetherows) to his own narrow vision. Much of the film watches as Reichardt's characters blindly follow Meek, but gradually they begin to grow disillusioned. The guy doesn't know what he's doing.

Reichardt, in interviews, likened her film to George Bush Junior's excursions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. But to say Bush got a nation lost in a meandering, directionless desert journey is – whilst not necessary untrue - to reduce what are far more complex issues. "Meek's Cutoff" is thus better viewed as being representative of something far broader. It's a more generalised tale of idolatry, misplaced trust and of incompetent leaders who are empowered solely because we are meek and so engender their own (abuse of) authority.

Late in the film, our travellers encounter a Cayuse Indian. Meek wants to kill the Indian and so begins to sow seeds of paranoia. It is at this moment when Michelle William's character, Emiley, steps out of her shell and stands up to him. She essentially stops being meek (the cutoff point of the film's title), demands that the Indian not be harmed, usurps Meek and then turns Meek's job over to the Cayuse. Reichardt's message is clear, if overly heavy-handed: a deeply patriarchal culture is shown to violently distrust the Other, a self-destructive stance which is reversed with the introduction of traditionally feminine values. The Whites and the Other then journey ahead together whilst Meek, a very violent Western archetype, is revealed to be a simple fool. He's literally cut-off and overthrown, leading to the film title's triple meaning. But Reichardt's too smart to end with closure. Maybe our travellers starve, get lost and maybe their faith in the Other is completely misplaced. We don't know.

Westerns with female leads ("The Quick and the Dead", "Bad Girls" etc) often perpetuate the idea of the phallic female gunfighter. Westerns with male leads, meanwhile, conventionally feature women who abhor, are ignorant of, or are afraid of guns. Unusual for the genre, "Cutoff" gives its one moment of gun-play to Emiley. It's at this moment in which she moves from passive spectator to active protagonist and so takes on the role of heroic westerner. Given her relationship with the Indian, though, Emiley finds herself representative of a new kind of western hero. In Emiley's hands, the gun isn't a tool for conquest and her relationship with the Other is presented as the alternative to the law/lawless, civilisation/savage dichotomy of traditional westerns. She suggests coexistence and integration, symbolised by a last act shot of a tree (hope blooms?) and a POV shot in which our/her gaze is literally encircled by leaves. Reichardt create's a new, potentially mythic western hero, though the film's tone remains fearful and uncertain.

8/10 - Like Reichardt's previous films, "Cutoff" is minimalist, heavily symbolic and visually spare. It's very poorly paced in parts, but a strong performance by Bruce Greenwood elevates things. Requires multiple viewings.
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Good idea, but....
Raynor8931 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I was really excited to watch this movie and finally I got the opportunity that was waiting for. However, from the start I kind of guessed that it wouldn't be a smooth ride for 104 minutes. First of all, you have to wait 10 or 15 minutes before you hear one of the characters talking. Still, I maintained high hopes that I would witness some sort of turn of events, just to find out that... it never really happens. Don't get me wrong: the landscape is beautiful and Bruce Greenwood (Meek) plays a very interesting character. When you are lost in middle of the desert, it's normal (I guess)for your morale to be low, and as a consequence, you don't really want to talk to anyone around you. But, after 40 minutes, the landscape starts to get boring, the way the storyline "moves" slowly as a snail, the annoying soundtrack (if I had a gun at that moment...), it all adds up to a big disappointment. The idea is great: how did the American west was really explored, how native Americans and (let's be honest) foreigners interacted (one of the best subjects present in the movie)and how people in desperate situation do anything to survive. Unfortunately, none of this was properly explored and the end result is a dull movie. It had everything to be great, but it only manages to be average.

P.S.: sorry if my English isn't perfect, haven't practiced in a long time.
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