Meek's Cutoff

April 15th, 2011


Meek's Cutoff

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Still of Michelle Williams in Meek's CutoffStill of Shirley Henderson in Meek's CutoffKelly Reichardt at event of Meek's CutoffMeek's CutoffStill of Shirley Henderson in Meek's CutoffMichelle Williams in Meek's Cutoff

Settlers traveling through the Oregon desert in 1845 find themselves stranded in harsh conditions.

Release Year: 2010

Rating: 6.7/10 (3,554 voted)

Critic's Score: 85/100

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Stars: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano

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.

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 - The Indian


Official Website: Official site | Official site [France] |

Release Date: 15 April 2011

Filming Locations: Burns, Oregon, USA

Opening Weekend: $20,042 (USA) (10 April 2011) (2 Screens)

Gross: $977,600 (USA) (21 August 2011)

Technical Specs


Continuity: When Meek and Solomon ride off in pursuit of the Indian, Meek's hat blows off and he continues on without stopping. When the two men return some time later, with the bound Indian in tow, Meek is wearing his hat.

User Review

The least you need to know

Rating: 7/10

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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