Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Meek's Cutoff

Three families with their covered wagons follow their guide Stephen Meek on a route through Oregon that he told them would take two weeks. Five weeks later they are running short of food and even shorter of water and are having doubts about Mr Meek. Is he lost, did he never know the way, is he mad or is he out to kill settlers? More importantly do they continue to follow him south west or strike north to try and find the main trail (who knows how far north)?

Their dilemma is further complicated when a third option arises bringing with it some hope but even more unknowns. Meek's Cutoff is a very slow paced film and it is a long time before the dialogue starts. But that pacing bring with it the rising tension of the life or death situation the three families are in, once past the point of no return. The camera generally stays with the three wives as they become aware of the problem the men have tried to keep to themselves. Eventually a power struggle emerges and Meek himself finally admits that power has already transferred to the new leader of the expedition.

The film is a study of the dynamics in small group leadership and decision making. How many of the apparent choices really exist when faced with a decision? How and why does power transfer itself from one person to another?

The camera work is very nice as is the attention to detail of trail life so you won't be impatient with the slow pace of the film. This is one of those films that will have you thinking and talking after you leave the cinema and might end up on some feminist top 10 list.

The real Stephen Meek led 200 wagons and 1000 people into the Oregon Desert in 1845.

Ian's rating 4/5

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