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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Meek's Cutoff [Blu-ray]


(Kelly Reichardt, 2010)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Evenstar Films

Video: Oscilloscope Laboratories



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:42:41.071

Disc Size: 41,350,161,108 bytes

Feature Size: 33,398,028,288 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.98 Mbps

Chapters: 19

Case: Custom 4-tiered cardboard foldout case

Release date: September 13th, 2011



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted to 1.78

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3880 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3880 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit



English (SDH), none



The Making of Meek's Cutoff Behind the scenes featurette (9:37 in 1080i)
Original theatrical trailer (2:27 in 1080P)
Exclusive essay by Richard Hell

DVD of the feature





Description: The year is 1845, the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, and a wagon train of three families has hired mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a shortcut, Meek leads the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage. Over the coming days, the emigrants face the scourges of hunger, thirst and their own lack of faith in one another's instincts for survival. When a Native American wanderer crosses their path, the emigrants are torn between their trust in a guide who has proven himself unreliable and a man who has always been seen as a natural born enemy.


Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine, Shutter Island, Incendiary) stars alongside Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood) and Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, I’m Not There, Capote) in a tense, subtle drama set during the earliest days of the Oregon Trail. The year is 1845 and a wagon team of three families is setting off across the sparse terrain of the Oregon desert. They become lost and have to put their faith in a Native American not knowing if he will lead them into an ambush, or water.



The Film:

Meek’s Cutoff, like Reichardt’s earlier films, is full of unanswered questions and unspoken assumptions. Its oxen-pulled pacing is so bracingly glacial that when one of the wagons breaks loose while being winched down a steep hill, it feels like a scene from The Fast and the Furious.

The film’s otherwise quiet, uncluttered storyline gives ample space for reflection and conversation, often by firelight as the families bed down for the night, having put another few miles behind them. There are arresting images too: of Dano’s character carefully carving LOST in a sun-bleached tree trunk; or Williams’ lightening their load by throwing furniture from the back of the wagon like so much land-based jetsam.

Excerpt from The National Post located HERE

The first thing you see in “Meek’s Cutoff,” after a hand-scrawled title card placing the action in the Oregon Territory in 1845, is a small group of settlers fording a river. It’s a treacherous, tedious undertaking, and Kelly Reichardt, the director of this tough, quiet revelation of a movie, films it in an uninflected style that makes everything feel at once mundane and mysterious. We are seeing the world more or less exactly as it looked to those hardy, foolish souls on screen (and almost forgetting to notice that most of them are actors we recognize from elsewhere). The way that world looked to them was unimaginably strange, every hill and rock loaded with portent, promise and menace.

Excerpt from A. O. Scott at the NY Times located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Meek's Cutoff looks excellent on Oscilloscope's dual-layered Blu-ray that preserves the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Detail is very strong and there is plenty of depth. The 1080P image quality showcases exquisite landscapes with the beautiful west terrain showing cracked brown earth and dry golden grasses en-route to Oregon's promised land. It is so natural via Chris Blauvelt's impressive cinematography that you feel you cold touch it - and feel the fresh breezes on your skin. The mood-dominant film experience is greatly benefitted by the adeptly transferred hi-def visuals. Naturally fire-lit night scenes add to the aura and are procured digitally without a preponderance of noise or artifacts. Day light sequences look tremendous on Blu-ray and I suspect this is a strongly authentic representation of the film presentation experience. I was duly impressed with the image - thumbs skyward.

















Audio :

We get a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround at 3880 kbps that exports the original music by Jeff Grace which allows another layer in the encapsulation of aura and judgment of Meek's Cutoff as art-leaning. Dialogue has lengthy gaps separated by the shuffle of feet or hooves on the dry earth. Effects and surround range is minimal but when depth is called for it achieves some representational, if not dynamic, bass with a couple of rifle shots. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide!



Extras :

Supplements include The Making of Meek's Cutoff - a 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette - shown in HD, an original theatrical trailer in 1080P while the Oscilloscope case has a printed essay by Richard Hell which also holds a second disc DVD of the feature. With so many unanswered questions within the film - that are left to your own perceptions - I didn't want any over-exploratory dissertation on the director's meaning or intent. IMO, the film worked perfectly well without any post-analysis.



With the pacing and vérité style Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff is not a film for everyone but I, personally, was totally enamored with it. I wanted it to go one and on - it may have been the most enjoyable/relaxing film viewing I have had all year. So from my standpoint I judge this as a minimalist masterpiece. The Blu-ray gave me such a pleasurable viewing that I want to have it all over again. Depending on your predilection and expectations on cinema this pure film effort has our highest recommendation. Absolutely magnificent. 

Gary Tooze

August 23rd, 2011


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze





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