Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Meek's Cutoff (Two Disc Special Edition with Blu-Ray and DVD) Review

Dir: Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Old Joy)
Cast: Michelle Williams, Zoe Kazan, Shirley Henderson, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano, Will Patton, Neal Huff, Tommy Nelson, Rod Rondeaux
USA, 2011

Reason to see: I have a soft spot in my heart for westerns, plus it's extremely rare for them to feature women

I was aching to see Meek's Cutoff, as it looked like a western with a female protagonist which is something extremely rare. After seeing it I'd want to call it an ensemble cast though, but that might just be due to the fact that everyone here is so great from Shirley Henderson to Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano to Zoe Kazan, but in all honestly it's Michelle Williams' show here. She is the one we are watching most of the time and she drives the story across the desolate land of the dust and darkness.

There are certain directors who have a very clear stamp on their work, and Kelly Reichardt is definitely a director that has a stamp. From the real-time feel of the pacing to naturalistic light, to following a piece of a journey without telecasting a back story which I actually really love because it in combination with the slower pace create a very engaging piece of cinema where the viewer has to work out the story for themselves. Who are these people? Why are they here? How do they know each other? Where are they going? Why? It might be crazy-making for some, but I love it. It's like figure out a puzzle where you don't even know what the picture on the box is, or even if you have all the pieces to make it work but you keep trying to fit piece to piece and see what sticks.

While we are trying to understand our characters on their long pilgrimage from somewhere to somewhere, we are treated to absolutely gorgeous landscapes of vast bleakness in dry, dusty weather giving the film a worn and tired energy as the characters continue to stumble through. There is amazing resilience and stubbornness on the trek, but when facing the vast unknown it's clear that making decision isn't an easy thing and even though we are following a small troupe of folks there are multiple, subtle power balances in play and what happens if that shifts and who can you trust, if anyone? It's a fascinating, subtle study of human nature against the forces of nature and against ourselves. A gorgeous, insightful and engaging film, Meek's Cutoff is one I'd easily recommend for all western fans for a refreshing new take on the genre with strong performances and beautiful scenery. Dive into the dust bowl and check it out.

DVD Extras:
  • The Making of Meek's Cutoff (9 minutes) behind the scenes prop preparation, animal wrangling, weapons and transportation footage and just like the film itself this extra feature has a very fly on the wall feel. There are no direct to the camera interviews, discussions or moments, it is all watching them work on and make the film. Very impressive to see the actual physical locations they filmed at, and the amount of work that went into making all the practicals happen, especially the work with the carriages.
  • Exclusive Essay by Richard Hell (on physical package)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
Meek's Cutoff is available on DVD as of September 20, 2011. Check it out over at &

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I'd highly recommend it to fans of dark westerns & existential films

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

1 comment:

Ron Cromer said...

I rented "Meek's Cutoff" last night (Comcast) and found myself wishing there were more, beyond the point of the tree. I thought Michelle Williams was terrific and the rest of the cast were very good too. At first I remember thinking, as Peggy Lee sang in 1969"Is That All There Is.." but shortly after the movie ended I found myself sitting silently in my living room, really wishing it hadn't ended AND NOT because I felt the whole experience was odd or incomplete but because I was almost with them by the time they conferenced at the tree. I was ready to continue following the Indian, ready for the next part of the adventure. Cudos to the entire cast but especially to Ms. Williams as I am now a big fan of hers! And last, but certainly not least, the visuals were just wonderful! Such scenery, removed from humanity by time and distance. I'd have joined them, save for the lack of an ice cooler & SUV! :)

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