When Terence Malick’s latest effort hit the theatres, he had trimmed it down to 135 minutes. Early critics had seen a version running 150 minutes. This version is longer yet, clocking it at 172 minutes. Most of what I said about the previous DVD release holds, and so I’m reproducing it here, with additional comments as necessary.
Virginia, 1607. English ships arrive and a colony is set up, but with considerable difficulty. Famine and disease take their toll. Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) heads off to seek help from the Powhatan. He is captured, sentenced to death, but waved by Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher, whose character is never actually given that name). So begins a fateful relationship.
Terence Malick has something of the Stanley Kubrick aura around him: he only puts out a movie about once a decade, his work is very much his own, and his movies are always gorgeous. No exception here. There is also plenty of meditative voice-over, which is either profound or pretentious, depending on your take. It thought it worked in The Thin Red Line, but here the musings are too often banal. The pace is, as one might expect, stately, but one’s patience is taxed without sufficient payoff this time around. For all that, the sheer beauty of the film does keep one watching.
The above is what I felt about the 135 minute cut. With close to an extra 40 minutes, everything is certainly more developed, but there is even more meandering going on. The film divided critics, and it is doubtful that this version will change that. Banality doesn’t become profundity through sheer quantity.
Malick and DP Emmanuel Lubezki should be pleasd with the transfer. “Sumptuous” is a rather inadequate word here, especially when it comes to the greens of the vegetation. All of the colours are fine, as are the contrasts and blacks. The image is extremely sharp, and there is no grain or edge enhancement. So sit back and feast your eyes. Your mind might no be as engaged as you’d like, but your visual senses will be hugely satisfied.
All of that beauty extends to the sound design, and this is given a truly wonderful 5.1 mix (with a 2.0 track tossed in for good measure). Whether one is hearing the gorgeous score, the sounds of birds or insects, the rush of wind, the patter of rain, and so on, the placement is nothing short of spectacular. The sense of an environment here is nothing short of astonishing. Soundtracks don’t get much better than this. Just to make sure the experience is maximized, an equalization function is provided to optimize the sound.
In this respect, the DVD is a step down from the previous release. Gone is the making-of documentary. In its place: nothing. The disc under review did not include a digital copy, but presumably the retail version will.
Longer, more beauty, more pretension, no extras. If you’re a fan of the film, you will need to pick this up, and if you’re a Malick completist, you’ll need to hang on to your earlier discs, too.