If you haven't seen this turkey, I would most emphatically recommend: DON'T BOTHER! Went to see it yesterday since the L.A. Times' reviewer rated it "nearly perfect." I was quite eager to see it because I do like to study the American West, and the period between the "mountain man" and the "cowboy" eras has seldom gotten much cinematic treatment. The movie has a lot of artsy-fartsy cinematography and spare dialog. The women often have dirty faces. I guess this impresses urban cinema critics by imparting a specious realism. In point of fact, the movie is inauthentic to the point of preposterousness. Briefly, the movie involves a party of three families being guided through the deserts of eastern Oregon by a bombastic mountain man named Steven Meek in an effort to make a shortcut from the Oregon Trail--hence the title. They have been lost for a long time. They have come to distrust Meek, unsure if he is a British agent deliberately leading them to their dooms (remember that in 1845 Oregon was still disputed territory) or merely incompetent. Each family has a tiny wagon drawn by a pair of oxen. (The typical Conestoga wagon was much bigger and required a dozen oxen to pull it.) They have no spare draft animals. What they are going to do when they get to fertile part of Oregon remains a mystery since they have no livestock and no agricultural implements like plows that I could see. They start to run out of water. They capture an Indian. Meek wants to kill the Indian at once, but the settlers believe he can lead them to water. The young wife of the most competent of the settlers makes an effort to befriend the Indian. They wander ever onward. Although they are supposedly desperate for water, they don't show much distress, and the oxen look as sleek and fat as ever, steadily pulling along. One of the wagons gets wrecked. Meek wants to kill the Indian. The young wife points a rifle at Meek and threatens to kill him if he kills the Indian. The Indian continues to lead them. One of the settlers has a stroke or something and is transported in a wagon. Eventually they find a tree in the middle of the desert. They think water may be nearby. The Indian walks off. Meek acknowledges the leadership of the competent settler. The movie ends suddenly. I exclaimed, "What the hell?" The few other people in the audience had the same reaction. As I was exiting the theater discussing the movie with three old ladies who had been sitting near me, another woman came up and asked if we had enjoyed the movie. We replied in chorus that we most emphatically did not. That reassured her. She had seen the movie previously (she had been watching another one before encountering us) and disliked it strongly, despite favorable critical comment. She thought maybe something was the matter with her. We told her there definitely wasn't. Maybe I am just an old middlebrow philistine, but I like drama to have some sort of climax and a more definitive resolution and conclusion. I had been waiting for something to happen--an Indian attack...or that they find water and reach safety...or something. As it was, the movie was really quite boring--sort of a lengthy "shaggy dog story." I had thought they were building suspense before something significant happened, but no. The movie was actually filmed in eastern Oregon. The fact that you could see a road or highway cut on a distant hill in the final scene detracted a bit from the pretense of realism. At least no conetrails were visible.