Friday, October 21, 2011
Let me be clear. This film is not for everybody. It’s very slow. Did I say slow? I mean verrrry slow. In fact, it crawls. If you are looking for action, look elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you are interested in a film that builds tension, fear, and uncertainty, while at the same time offering up a heavy dose of mood, Meek’s Cutoff is for you. The Washington Post describes the film as “a mesmerizing, cinematic journey…thoroughly redefines the American western”. I whole heartedly agree.
The men, lead by Solomon Tetherow (Will Patton), begin to question whether Meek knows the way. The trail crosses the high desert country of Eastern Oregon and, with no landmarks, the settlers begin to wonder if they are lost. Making matters worse is the possibility of a hostile Indian attack. Meek and Solomon capture a Native American who has been following the group. As a result, alliances begin to shift. The women, lead by Emily Tetherow, the wife of Solomon, begin to openly question Meek’s intentions. Should they kill the potentially hostile Indian or trust him to lead them to water? Or do they continue to put their trust in Meek.
Although this may be a low-key approach to filmmaking; nevertheless, Meek’s Cutoff manages to fill each frame with interesting and captivating images. The sage brush, blue skies and stark landscapes pop and explode on the screen, thanks to outstanding cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt.
Meek’s Cutoff is unusual in its portrayal of the strong-willed women, who were not afraid to speak their mind. The women are just as strong and capable as the men. This is a different view which is not found in most typical westerns from this historical time period. Michelle Williams is excellent of her role of Emily Tetherow. You certainly get the message. Without the women, the men folk would be lost. Michelle Williams, a two-time Academy Award nominee, also collaborated with Director Kelly Reichardt’s last film, Wendy and Lucy.
Meek’s Cutoff presents an interesting look at how different cultures and ethnic groups interact and relate to each other. Most of our westerns have presented only a one-dimensional view. We know the pioneers are afraid and suspicious of the Native Americans. But what about the Native Americans. What did they think about the strange people coming into their lands? What did they want? Why are they here? It must have been frightening to them as well. This is a view that is rarely ever presented in other westerns.
If you are a history buff, you’re going to love this film. Or if you have discriminating tastes in film, you’ll want to check out Meek’s Cutoff.