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Kelly Reichardt's absorbing and beautifully composed western, set on the Oregon trail in the 1840s.
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Kelly Reichardt's absorbing and beautifully composed western is set in 1845, during the earliest days of the Oregon trail. A wagon train of three families has hired mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a shortcut, he leads the group on an unmarked path over the high plain desert, only to become lost in the arid rock and sage. As food and water run low, tensions emerge, and the group's faith in Meek and in their own ability to survive is sorely tested. Reichardt's pared-down approach and her unfailing eye for composition are perfect for this story, creating a palpable sense of tension and unease, helped by the unshowy, natural performances of the strong ensemble cast. Watching a film as meticulously crafted as Meek's Cutoff is thrilling in itself, but what makes it all the more so is how effective this is in making us care about the settlers' fate, wrapping us tightly into the life or death nature of their journey.