UK Release date: 15th April 2011
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 5th May 2012.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
This is another of those films that got recommended during an online discussion. This time the topic was Westerns and those that know me will know I’m not particularly a fan of the genre. I did, however, add it to ‘The List’ and it finally came into view this week. I must say I found it quite different to anything else I’ve seen in its genre, quite gritty and realistic without any of that Hollywood ‘polish’. I will tell you more after this very brief summary.
It is 1845 and many settlers are making their way along the Oregon Trail. A group of three families have split off with their guide, Stephen Meek, to take a short cut across what proves to be a very harsh wilderness. We follow the families as their water supply dwindles and they become more desperate. They come across a Native American who some of the group hope can lead them to water. Others, including Meek are less trusting. I won’t say any more or the Spoiler Police (Western’s Division) will be taking my Sherriff’s badge and six shooters off me (again).
I was surprised to find the film was made in a 4:3 aspect ratio which (I felt) did not lend itself to the landscape. The audience is restricted to a box-like view of what looks like an amazing landscape and I was slightly disappointed by that. All of the performances were very good, the dialogue is quite unusual and there is some interesting use of sound where some dialogue is partially drowned out by other sounds, it’s quite naturalistic. So I’ll give honourable mentions to; Michelle Williams as Emily Tetherow, Bruce Greenwood as Stephen Meek, Will Patton as Soloman Tetherow, Zoe Kazan as Millie Gaitley, Paul Dano as Thomas Gaitley, Shirley Henderson as Glory White and Rod Rondeaux as The Indian.
The very natural style put me in mind of the work of Terrence Malick although this is very different in a lot of ways too. I must warn potential viewers that the film has a very slow pace and the narrative doesn’t follow the traditional beginning – middle – end pattern. You will also find that the scenes at night are extremely dark, there seems to be no additional lighting apart from that given off by camp fires and lanterns. All in all though I did find this one quite enthralling; I became invested in the characters and was interested in the outcome of their adventure. If you’re interested in early American history then I can highly recommend it; it’s certainly not your traditional Western that’s darn tootin’.
My score: 7.5/10
IMDb Score: 6.6/10 (based on 3,962 votes at the time of going to press).
MetaScore: 85/100: (Based on 36 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 85/100 (based on 116 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 55/100 (based on 7,589 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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Official Site: http://meekscutoff.com/