Sunday, December 25, 2005

The New World - Movie Review

The New World 2005

”Captain Smith and Pocahontas had a very mad affair
When her Daddy tried to kill him, she said – Daddy, Oh don't you dare
He gives me fever – with his kisses, fever when he holds me tight
Fever – I'm his Missus, daddy won't you treat him right."

- lyrics from “Fever” by Peggy Lee

As avid readers of The Bloody Red Carpet know by now, this is the film we had been waiting for all year long. We were practically dripping with anticipation and excitement at the thought of a new Terrence Malick film! Since his breakthrough work way back in 1973 – “Badlands” with Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen, he has helmed two other masterpieces, “Days of Heaven” in 1978 and “The Thin Red Line” in 1998. And that’s it. With “The New World”, he brings his total to four. Four fucking movies in thirty two years. Makes Stanley Kubrick look like Woody Allen! But was it worth the wait? Yes and no.

Yes, this is a wonderful film. Clearly one of the year’s best, and one that simply demands to be seen on the large screen for it’s breathtaking beauty and hypnotic atmosphere.

No, it was not worth the wait since we were forced to see it with a full audience of what we had falsely assumed were people who enjoyed going to see movies that weren’t aimed at morons. Clearly, these people had A. Never heard of Terrence Malick, B. Had never seen a Terrence Malick film, and C. Should be taken out back and shot thru the head executioner style.

We understand that many people go to the movies to “have fun”. If that’s all that movies are worth, then please never attend a movie again. No, not all movies should be categorized “Art” with a capital “A”. And that isn’t what we are talking about. We are talking about the ability that some talented filmmakers have to transcend the medium that is chock full of Buddy-Cop-Car-Chases and Fart-in-a-Virgin’s-face-Frat-Comedies or Two-Pathetic-Urban-Neurotics-Meet-Cute-and-End-Up-Happily-Ever-After-Comedies or remakes of Japanese Horror flicks. Isn’t there some room on the vast cinematic dinner table for a film that traces it’s roots back to the beginning and honors the visual storytelling of moving pictures? We can put up with many things, but we completely lose our patience with idiots that cannot appreciate Terrence Malick. Like Antonioni, Bresson or Kurosawa – this man understands the visual power that movies can exert over a willing audience. And if you can’t appreciate his work, go fuck yourselves.
The New World” has been labeled an epoch retelling of the Pocahontas myth. And that pretty much sums up the plot. While the real Powhatan Princess may have never been “The Noble Savage” of American mythology or a fever inducing Lolita – she has clearly entered the realm of legend over the centuries. Terrence Malick takes the basic storyline of the myth, and expands it visually to reflect that truly mythic time when Europeans first arrived upon the shores of North America to settle the New World. Funny thing, it turns out to have already been settled. By those pesky Native Americans. You see, kids before there were Casinos and AA meetings – the Native Americans actually had it pretty darned good! And then came the White Men. Typical.

With “The New World”, Malick transports us to this turning point in America’s history and while never flinching from the ugly truths – he manages to paint a breathtaking canvas filled with indelible images and real emotion. As John Smith, Colin Farrell is used to fine effect. While he may not be one of our favorite actors working today, he has managed to charm us with some exceptional work. Most notably in the little seen “A Home at the End of the World.” Christian Bale, of the blisteringly hot abs – turns in a beautiful turn as John Rolfe, Pocahontas’ paramour after being abandoned by John Smith.

Christopher Plummer – that old drunk, is fine but fairly typically cast as the stern captain in charge of the proceedings. And with the discovery of fourteen year old Q’Orianka Kilcher as Pocahontas, Terrence Malick has found the heart and soul of the film.

This has to be the best meeting of actress and role in recent memory. She is truly astounding. Completely believable as the underage native beauty, her charms and appeal are never in question. But the real surprise was her captivating screen presence. Beguiling, flirtatious, brave, charismatic. She is all these and more. We are not sure if she is the real deal – or if Malick had to help coax the performance out of one so young, either way the end result is superb. The chemistry between her and Colin Farrell sells the first half of the film, and the relationship between her and the doting Christian Bale in the second half brings the story full circle. Whatever the future may hold for young Miss Kilcher, she should be proud of her tremendous accomplishment in “The New World.”

While the casting is vital to the success of this tale, it is the gloriously visual storytelling that brings it home. Nature has always been one of the main characters in Malick’s movies. From the stark landscapes of the Midwest in “Badlands” to the symphony of wheat fields in “Days of Heaven” thru the blood stained jungle terrains of “The Thin Red Line” – the power, majesty and poetic grandeur of nature takes a front seat in his storytelling. The difference between watching a National Geographic® documentary and watching Terrence Malick at work is one that is discernable to the true filmgoer. One makes a pretty backdrop for penguins. And one steeps you in the setting, frames the characters in a variety of expressions and moods and ultimately propels the story and action through juxtaposition and temperament. For what better description or explanation of a character can there be than to see them experiencing a New World for the first time?

All we need to know about the main characters in this film is shown thru their interaction with nature. From the soldiers’ inability to cope with their new terrain, to the Native Americans’ disruption of their daily lives, to Pocahontas’ gradual idealization at the feet of British Royalty – “The New World” represents changing horizons for all concerned. Malick is an artist. And Thank God we have him around. If you feel brave enough to experience a movie that might actually make you think, ravish your senses with beauty and truth, and takes you to a place you have never seen before – then go see “The New World.” You’ll be glad we sent you. And the rest of you, we hope you catch syphilis and die a painful death. Bless you all!

Written & Directed by Terrence Malick

Colin Farrell as John Smith
Q’Orianka Kilcher as Pocahontas
Christopher Plummer as Captain Christopher Newport
Christian Bale as John Rolfe
August Schellenberg as Powhatan
Wes Studi as Opechancanough
Raoul Trujillo as Tomocomo
David Thewlis as Captain Edward Wingfield
Yorick van Wageningen as Captain Argall
John Savage as Savage
Noah Taylor as Selway
Irene Bedard as Pocahontas’ Mother
Ben Chaplin as Jehu Robinson
Brian F. O’Byrne as Lewes
Jonathan Pryce as King James I

Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki
Film Editing by Richard Chew, Hank Corwin & Saar Klein
Costume Design by Jacqueline West
Original Music by James Horner
Production Design by Jack Fisk
Art Direction by David Crank
Set Decoration by Jim Erickson