Inspired by historical accounts and journals, Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff tells the story of three families who set off on the Oregon trail in search of new life in 1845. Stephen Meek is their hired wilderness guide. Claiming to know a short cut, he leads them on an unmarked path across the high plain desert – but as food, water and his excuses run low, the families become increasingly mistrustful of him. Lost, starving, stricken… a native American wanderer soon crosses their path. The emigrants are torn between their trust in a guide who has proven himself unreliable and a man who has always been seen as their natural enemy.
It is the unspoken which drives the tension of this powerfully evocative, beautifully cinematic film. Like Terrence Malik’s Days of Heaven, Meek’s Cutoffshares a detached mood and an eerie beauty, but distinctly carries Reichard’s unique stamp. Strong performances and a visual poetry combine with soundscapes to create simply exquisite cinema. Better than True Grit.