MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Westerns are hard to do nowadays. Everyone always makes them so serious when their history in film has been relatively light and disposable. It’s something I refer to as “The Unforgiven Effect,” which happened after “Unforgiven” won the Oscar and everyone seemed to think they had to make an emotionally serious and hard-hitting examination of the human condition.
“Meek’s Cutoff” is a darling of independent cinema starring a darling of independent cinema. Michelle Williams plays a wife on a wagon train heading through Oregon in 1845. The train hired mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them, but the introduction of a stranger to the train threatens the trust in the group.
I appreciate what director Kelly Reichardt is trying to do with this film. And for those out there who like soft spoken, slow moving dramas like this, it’s a great film. But it dragged for me. It didn’t excite me. It covered familiar ground that I’ve seen in the wake of The Unforgiven Effect, and that bored me, frankly. It also presented people who were so devoid of personality, humor and interest that I didn’t care if any of them made it out alive.
Reichardt made the bold decision to shoot this movie in the 4:3 aspect ratio to emulate the boxed in vision of women in bonnets. I understand that, and to her credit, this gave the film a distinct claustrophobic feel. However, it just looks bad on an HDTV, giving it the appearance of an old television western rather than a modern motion picture.
The Blu-ray comes with the DVD included, and there’s the theatrical trailer on both discs. A small “The Making of Meek’s Cutoff” is also included, but that’s just a hodge-podge of set footage with no real narration… kinda like the film itself.