December 21, 2011

Meek's Cutoff

Meek's Cutoff (2010) is about a harrowing journey along the Oregon Trail. The party of eight is lost, and their supposed guide, Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), doesn't have a clue where they're going (although he tries to maintain the illusion that he's leading them to the promised land). It's a demystified Western. The cowboy isn't the hero, the Indian doesn't miraculously know English or save the day, and most of the characters are impotent.

As impressive and admirable a picture as this may be with its sparseness and economy and gritty realism, it's more a test of endurance than a piece of entertainment. It works out like a short story you read without feeling anything. Michelle Williams's performance comes through but only because her character is written to be the strong one. Everyone else is practically mute.

With Will Patton, Paul Dano, and Rod Rondeaux. Written by Jon Raymond. Directed by Kelly Reichardt.

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