For the faithful, writer-director T.C. Christensen's fond depiction of the Willie Handcart Company a group of more than 400 Mormon settlers whose late start in 1856 got them caught in October blizzards in Wyoming is a dramatic, thoughtful account of the miracles that helped the majority of them make it to Salt Lake City alive. For the skeptical, applying the label "miracle" to events that could also be described as "dumb luck" may be a challenge. Christensen's eye for composition and sumptuous scenery (all shot in Utah) gives the movie a glossy look, though the script's episodic structure is wearying and the production's limited budget exemplified by the StyroFoam fake snow and the frostbite makeup effects can be distracting. Jasen Ward's rugged performance as Levi Savage, the returned missionary who helps lead the party in spite of his misgivings, holds the movie together. HHhj
Opens Friday, June 3, at area theaters; rated PG for thematic material involving hardships and suffering; 102 minutes.