February 21, 2012

February 21, 2012

In My Opinion: Meek’s Cutoff

Though we’re only two months in, I feel certain that Meek’s Cutoff will turn out to be the worst movie I see in 2012. Or, quite possibly, the entire 2010s. Though I have a great tolerance for movies that are historical, artistic, or both, I didn’t enjoy a single minute of this film.

Perhaps I had misguided expectations. Meek’s Cutoff, you see, is about a group of ill-fated Oregon Trail pioneers. The year is 1845, before things really got going. (Fans of the computer game may remember that the default start year was 1848.) A group of settlers hires adventurer Stephen Meek to guide them. Meek, played with phenomenal bombast by Bruce Greenwood, decides to take a short cut. As one of my favorite hobbits once said, “Short cuts make long delays.” ‘Twas true in the real-life incident this film is based on, and ‘twas true in the film. Turns out Meek had explored the Oregon territory during the wet season. 1845 was dry. Without rivers and lakes and such to guide him, Meek was basically doing circles in the desert. Lovely.

The settlers deserve some mention here. Three couples, one with a young son and one on the way. Michelle Williams is the most recognizable cast member, though the woman who played Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films and Paul Dano are there, too. Unfortunately, they rarely speak...and when they do, they mumble…through beards. I had to turn the subtitles on, even though most of them explained the sound effects. Because, again, the entire film’s dialogue could probably fit on two pages.

After Meek literally loses his way, an Indian comes upon the group. Lucky, right? Well, maybe. The group trades him some blankets in exchange for being led to water. Michelle Williams’s character tries to bond with the Indian by mending his shoes and such. It doesn’t go very far.

Do the settlers find water? Do they survive? What happens to the Indian? I couldn’t say, because the move ends in medias res. Thank goodness for Wikipedia, which tells me that a) some but not all of the group survived, b) the group was never as small as portrayed in the film, and c) the Dalles is still a real place.

Spoiled as I am by the films of today, I was expecting DRAMA and NARRATIVE and FLAMES of some sort. I mean, have you seen the trailers for Battleship? They took “C5…hit. You sunk my carrier” and turned it into effing aliens! You’re telling me the natural and interpersonal drama inherent in the process of WALKING ACROSS THE ENTIRE COUNTRY couldn’t be dramatized any better than this? Approximately 60% of the movie involved people squinting into the sun. Where are the buffalo hunts and the river fords and the cholera?

Next thing I know, you’ll be telling me Carmen Sandiego actually sells car insurance.

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