The New World (2005) (Unrated)
There is no other director/film maker like Terrence Malick. If you've seen just one of his movies know this to be true: he can never be copied or faked. Malick's life is shrouded in mystery, he has never given an interview and after his second feature "Days of Heaven", he disappeared from the cinematic world for decades until his next movie, the anti-war film "The Thin Red Line". Sine then, he has dabbled in films, only having one separate the war film from his epic tapestry "The Tree of Life"...the film in between the two was "The New World".
As far as Malick films go, "The New World" is one of the more accessible ones, apart from "Days of Heaven". The story is straightforward and historic: the landing of the English to the Americas in 1607 and the hardships that they faced.
John Smith (Colin Farrell) is locked up for the trip over, supposedly he has made mutinous comments and is forced to travel the last leg of the journey under the deck. Once on America, he is going to be hanged, but Captain Newport (Christopher Plummer) has mercy on him and pardons him. The native inhabitants of America—"Naturals" as their sometimes called, but mostly referred to as "Savages"—are inquisitive about the floating islands that brought the men to their world. They have no sense of personal property and when the Englishmen set up camp, they think that they can stroll in at any time. A simple misunderstanding leads to a death which leads to the inevitable hostility between the white men and the Naturals.
Setting up camp at the first location was probably not the best idea as the men are soon finding out. They have built their fort on a barren swamp and Captain Newport heads back to England for more supplies and prays that the men he's leaving behind will survive until the nest spring.
Smith is elected to go looking for a chief of some sort who will hopefully trade with him. He heads out with a group of men and eventually gets separated from them. Then he encounters the natives.
He is about to be killed when a young woman throws herself on him and begs the chief, her father, to spare Smith's life...thankfully, this ruse works.
Smith is embraced in the Naturals's culture and he soon sees how peaceful everything is. The Indians have no sense of forgiveness, because they have to lies. They have no grudges or money—it's an almost perfect society.
The daughter, obviously Pocahontas (Q'orianka Kilcher in a breakout performance), educates John Smith on the ways of the Indians and soon love starts to bloom.
"The New World" is not very flattering of the English settlers, and how could it be? Malick draws on history to show some of the monstrosities that the settlers committed on the Naturals.
True to form, Malick's favorite things pop back up: voiced-over narrations, beautiful cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki (just give the man an Oscar already!), the score, the editing, the nature sounds and shots, and a heavy emphasis on maternity.
The film could be broken apart into three acts—an introduction, a climax, and the aftermath. John Smith starts out of the main character but is quickly overtaken by Pocahontas, who the settlers refer to as "Rebecca". Malick is very flattering to women—look at Linda Manz from "Days of Heaven" and Jessica Chastain from "The Tree of Life"—and Kilcher is no exception to this. The camera eats her up and adores her, and she deserves every minute of the time. She's ethereal and beautiful, in a non-stereotypical way.
There are parts of the movie that don't work, the most obvious fault is James Horner's score which can out-blare the emotions sometimes.
Malick seems to love nature, most of his films begin and end with nature shots, and here the camera captures North America with startling brutality, preciseness, and flattery. Never has the landscape looked so good.
"The New World" is more historical than poignant, and it turns into a very simple love story. It would be too easy to brush this work off as immature, but then again, Malick has always had critics.
This film isn't his best, but it is quite something and it is haunting in its own way.
Malick is known to be cruel to actors in the editing process. The most famous example of this would be all the editing done to "The Thin Red Line"—but you know what? I'm fine with him cutting out entire parts it if makes the movie more effective, which (by my estimation) it always does.
Malick is so poetic that it sometimes hurts to watch—his movies move me so.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Note: This review was made on the unrated, extended cut.
Posted by Micah Jones