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Meek’s Cutoff

by Indy Datta

The almost sensational Meek’s Cutoff – which tells the story (loosely based on historical facts) of a small group of emigrants on the Oregon Trail who take the eponymous diversion from the main trail under the dubious guidance of lushly bearded blowhard Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood) – seems, in isolation, to be a departure for director Kelly Reichardt from the somewhat literary miniaturism of Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy: a more story-driven genre piece (albeit in an uncompromising arthouse register) with an ensemble cast of recognisable names (Michelle Williams returns from Wendy and Lucy, and is joined by Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan and Shirley Henderson). Viewed in the context of the earlier films, however, it seems more like a transition: the film-maker’s ethical, political and aesthetic concerns remain consistent even as the scope of the storytelling becomes more expansive and conventional.

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