By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
Terrence Malick is a filmmaker known for his artistically unique films and his latest film definitely falls into this category. The problem, though, is that this film plays out rather messily and redundantly. The disoriented look and feel of the movie may be meant to mimic the aimlessness of his protagonist, but the redundancy of the chapters and style of the film make it a difficult one to watch and sit through entirely. Malick may have had a specific vision for this film, but it is not one I did not find too appealing.
Christian Bale stars as Rick, a screenwriter who has seemed to have lost his way in life. His career provides only so much satisfaction, and the death of his brother and his trouble relationships with his one surviving brother (Wes Bentley) and father (Brian Dennehy) have made things worse. His romantic life consists of mostly empty relationships with multiple women, and the more meaningful ones cannot bear the burden of Rick’s issues.
Written and directed by Terrence Malick, loosely inspired by the 1678 Christian allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress and the passage The Hymn of the Pearl from the Acts of Thomas, Malick’s film feels as lost and delirious as his protagonist Rick. The style of the film, with all of its odd camera angles and almost dizzying cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), makes it difficult to objectively see the character and the sometimes vague and disconnected writing makes it difficult for the audience to really bond with and feel empathy for him.
I can understand that Rick is disconnected and withdrawn from people, but the fact that Malick creates a similar relationship between Rick and the audience makes it almost impossible for them to relate with him. The film does have its powerful, poignant, and lovely moments, but the style of the presentation doesn’t allow the audience to truly appreciate these scenes. The film rarely shows people having real dialogues, but features mostly voice-over narration which ranges from beautiful poetry to nonsensical verse. Each chapter plays out similarly, despite the different circumstances and characters, but it get redundantly tiresome after a while.
To its benefit, the cast truly commit themselves to their roles and to Malick’s approach. Bale, as always, performs well as Rick, but I just really wish Malick’s film had given him more to do besides walking around lost and confused. The movie also features solid work by Antonio Banderas, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer, Imogene Poots, and Freida Pinto. The real standout performances of the movie come from Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Wes Bentley, and Brian Dennehy. These amazing talents deliver some incredible work here.
And it is mainly the acting in the film that actually make this film watchable. However, the unorthodox style just doesn’t work for me at all. I have actually admired several of Malick’s previous films, but perhaps this one is just too far into his own mind for its own good. There probably will be some die hard Malick fans who will absolutely adore this film, but those are the only people to whom I would recommend this film.