The 2011 western “Meek’s Cutoff” from Oscilloscope Laboratories was directed by Kelly Reichardt with a screenplay written by Jonathan Raymond. Starring: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Rod Rondeaux, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson and Neal Huff.
Based on a true story which took place in 1845 when pioneers began traveling to the western states of America to establish their homes. Traveling along the Oregon Trail in covered wagons, three families decide to set out on their own leaving a larger wagon train with the help of a hired guide Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood) to guide them through the Cascade Mountains to the place where they would begin their new lives.
Taking Meek at his word that he knows a shorter route to their destination, the families follow Meek directions, only to find themselves wandering in circles across dry land with no mountains in sight. Now Meek’s credibility is on the line and the emigrants begin to wonder why this man would lie to them and put their lives in danger.
With food and water running low, fear of dying in the middle of nowhere begin to haunt the emigrants. Emily Tetherow (Michelle Williams) steps forward with her husband Solomon (Will Patton) and begins to question Meek on why they seem to be going nowhere and how he plans to remedy the situation. Meek himself doesn’t seem to fully understand the seriousness of the situation, leaving the emigrants on their own to figure out what to do next.
As they continue traveling forward, the emigrants are struggling to come to terms with the fact that they are totally dependent on Meek when they encounter a lone Native American man (Rod Rondeaux). Capturing him and holding him hostage as their enemy, Meek begins to torture the man even though he claims to know how to get them to their destination.
As the three families discuss how they should handle the matter, racist fears begin to surface along with memories of their previous comfortable existence. Stranded and desperately in need of fresh water, they are wondering if following the Indian will lead them to the water they need or into the hands of his tribe.
Torn between the prospect of survival by trusting a man that they have been taught to hate or following a man who has proven himself a liar, the emigrants must decide on a course of action or face certain death in the wilderness.