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.
After the discretion of Wendy and Lucy Kelly Reichardt surprised us with her own take on the Western genre: intensely focused, fascinatingly observant, and loaded with portent. It continues Reichardt’s rich partnership with Michelle Williams, but it is Bruce Greenwood as Meek who steals the show.
I love Kelly Reichardt's other films, but I just wasn't feeling this one. It's supposed to come off as poised and sparse, but instead it felt oblique and average to me. It doesn't help knowing the history of the actual journey. Still, it's not the choice to re-write an epic into a small existential comment that bothers me. It's the fact that it feels formally forced, anemic to a fault and ultimately untrue.
"What does the earth say? I don't know. What does the sky say? I don't know. Who are these people? I have no idea. This still might be just a dream. I'm not sure. If only my brother were here I would have someone to talk to. Brother moon, you're very quiet tonight. You're no help at all." - Meek’s Cutoff’'s Mysterious Indian, Translated, Slate.com
Now this is a film. Beautifully captured, great camera work and astonishing use of colors. You don't feel slow parts because even when the camera wonders there's something meaningful going on; you can see it in the duration of the gestures. It is without a doubt a great cinematic experience and a insightful story. Great ending.
I have gone on record regarding my admiration for Michelle Williams' spectacular star-turn in My Week with Marilyn, but while discussing the other excellent work she has been doing lately, I avoid using the word performance. It is not so much a performance that she creates in films like Meek's Cutoff, but a characterization. She does not seek to impress critics and audience, but create on film a living person.
I found no truth in this film whatsoever. The acting was false. The screenwriting was lifeless & full of lines like, "you have no idea what I'm capable of", or the likes. Both costume & production design seemed forced. It's as if Reichardt had an exciting spark that failed in the incubation process, thus producing a stillborn product. I fear that she saw a certain "There Will Be Blood" & lusted greatness. Fail.