Meek's Cutoff

Synopsis: The year is 1845, the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, and a wagon team of three families has hired the mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a short cut, 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 must face the scourges of hunger, thirst and their own lack of faith in each other'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 the natural enemy.
Genre: Drama, Western
Director(s): Kelly Reichardt
Production: Oscilloscope Pictures
  7 wins & 11 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
104 min


[Water Running]

[Bird Chirping]

[Man Talking, Faint]



[Scraping Continues]


[Crickets Chirping]

"In the sweat of thy face

shalt thou eat bread...

till thou return

unto the ground,

for out of it

was thou taken,

for dust thou art,

and unto dust

shalt thou return.

And Adam called

his wife's name Eve,

because she was

the mother of all living.

Wish we had eggs.

Unto Adam, also

and unto his wife...

did the Lord God

make coats of skins

and clothed them.

And the Lord God said,


I don't remember what eggs are.

The man is become

as one of us,

to know good and evil,

and now, lest he

put forth his hand

and also take,

and take also

of the tree of life,

and eat, and live forever.'

Therefore, the Lord God

sent him forth from

the Garden of Eden,

to till the ground

from whence

that he was taken.

So he drove out the man

and he placed him at the

east of the Garden of Eden,

cherubim and a flaming sword

which turned every way,

to keep the way

of the tree of life."




Step up.



William. William.

[Man] He managed

to hightail it in there

just as fast as he could.

Figured he'd wait out

the storm.

But when he got inside,

it turned out there was

a big ol' grizzly bear

sleeping in there!

Joe faced himself

a dilemma.

Sure death outside...

and sure death inside.

- Well, what did he do?

- OI' Joe, he took

the quicker route.

He pulled out his gun,

he took a shot at the bear,

but it just made him mad!

She come at him,

claws a-swipin'

and teeth a-snappin',

and somehow

somehowJoe managed

to get himself...

up on the back side

of the bear,

and he rolled

around the cave

like a buckin' bull!

And she took his scalp

clean off...

on the roof of the cave

that day.

But you know what?

He ate her in the end.


And ever since then...

he's worn his hair long.

You know why?


In deference

to the squeamish.

It was quite a fight, son.

It was quite a fight.

But there's no bears here!

Hell's full of bears, Jimmy.

But there's no bears here.

[Men Conversing, Faint]

What are they

talking about?

Were you told?

Your husband didn't say?

Not this time.

They're talking about

whether to hang Stephen Meek.


Gately argued that Meek...

has taken us off track

on purpose,

that he was hired...

to get rid

ofAmerican immigrants.

So the more of us come,

the more likely

the territory goes American.

It has a logic.

I suppose.

A broken one.

Mr. White wasn't swayed either.

He argued for more patience.

"We're at

the man's mercy now,"

he said.

"Meek's just

made a mistake is all.

He's just in over his head."

And then what?

We were just

getting into it again

when Meek himself showed up.

He'd been hiding above us

up there in the rocks

the whole time.

So that's where he was.

He strutted into the circle

with his gun in his hand.

"Well, you've found me," he said.

"Now go ahead with the killin'."

Everybody got real quiet.

It shut everybody up.

Frank Gately

is happy enough to hang a man

so long as he's not around.


Well, Meek got to talkin'.

Of course he did.

He says that we are

in Paiute country now.

He says that the Paiutes

are a fearsome tribe,

that they're nothing

like the Flatheads

on the main stem.

If we trust him

to do his job,

well, then he welcomed

anyone to gainsay him.


about our route.

Nothing about it.

"Seen the elephant,"

my eye.

Two weeks, he said,

and we'd be in the pass.

It's been over five

and we haven't even

seen a mountain yet.

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Jonathan Raymond

Jonathan Raymond is an American writer living in Portland, Oregon. He is best known for writing the novels The Half-Life and Rain Dragon, and for writing the short stories and screenplays for the films Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy (both directed by Kelly Reichardt). He also wrote the screenplays for Meek's Cutoff and Night Moves, and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for his teleplay writing on the HBO miniseries, Mildred Pierce. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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