Release Date: March 4, 2016
Director: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Cast: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer, Imogen Poots, Peter Matthiessen, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Cherry Jones, Patrick Whitesell, Rick Hess, Michael Wincott, Kevin Corrigan, Jason Clarke, Joel Kinnaman, Clifton Collins Jr., Nick Offerman
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 118 minutes
Production Company: Dogwood Films, Waypoint Entertainment, Broad Green Pictures
Genre: Drama, Romance
Language: English, German, Serbian
I don’t view trailers as much as I used to. I’ve learned to appreciate going into some films knowing as little as possible. It can make for a more thrilling experience, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Out of the eight films under the belt of director Terrence Malik, I’ve seen only two of his films; Knight of Cups and The Tree of Life. The latter is a film I choose to never view again. I’d rather be taking an exam than endure its slow pacing and limited amount of dialogue. Though at least I was able to make sense of the story. I can’t say that for Knight of Cups. After viewing this film I still don’t know what it entails. I can try my best to explain, but who knows if I’m right. I can say with confidence that Malik’s films aren’t for me. I could be wrong, but I am almost positive his films aren’t for most movie going audiences. Malik defines the word auteur, leaving his own signature stamp on his films (at least the two I’ve seen), but now I realize that word isn’t always positive.
Going into this film I thought I had an idea of what I was in for. With the lead character Rick being cast as Christian Bale, I knew I would at least get a great performance. That wasn’t the case. His performance wasn’t poor, there was just no performance to judge or enjoy. Rick was emotionless throughout the entire film, other than one scene with his father. This scene was towards the end of the runtime. So it was already too late to engage the audience. Whether Rick was consuming the best food dish, making love to multiple women, or getting robbed in his own home, he never showed emotion. There was also a lack of dialogue with his role, and the entire film, which made the experience even more daunting. I wanted more from his character, and a reason why he floated from city to city. I imagine he’s recounting all the events of his life, asking himself the question, “What If?” like we all do. But the film is so random it’s difficult to tell.
A movie goer is supposed to enjoy what they’re experiencing on screen, not be confused by the sporadic method of storytelling. After an interesting opening, the film cuts to abstract art of a lady’s portrait and all of her many faces flashing across the screen. There’s no explanation on what’s going on at the time. I wish I could say it was at least beautiful to look at, but it reminded me of a fever dream, getting worse each time my mind tries to process what’s taking place. There was no consistency within the film either, other than black title cards. I assume this is meant to explain the next series of events, but it only made the film more confusing and jarring.
Trying to piece the story together, Rick’s character doesn’t seem to be happy with life. It feels like he got to one point, and then woke up asking himself what happened. Then the remainder of the film he’s trying to find out what went wrong. If that’s the case, I can understand him being emotionless, but I need a thorough explanation. Throughout the film he has relationships with many women, and each seem as important as the last. With that being said, it was hard to wish him well with any of these encounters. Without any warning he’s already moved on to the next fling, like changing underwear. The audience is never told why, when, or how. We’re just left with scenes that have no context, and it’s up to us to figure out.
Since I mentioned scenes, that’s all this production is. It doesn’t feel like a film, but more like the deleted scenes crafted together of a real film we’ll never see. It was more of a concept than a film. It felt like a dream. That makes sense to me, because I’m never able to make sense of my dreams, just like I wasn’t for this film. The urge to walk out haunted me minute after minute, but I wasn’t able to. I wanted to finish what I started. There were twenty six other brave souls that did leave, and got on with their lives. They were much smarter than myself. I didn’t count, but after the film ended an audience member announced how many people walked out on the film. It’s obvious Malik put a lot of work in this film. His work with the camera sticks to the cast like a shadow that isn’t noticed. It gives a perspective you’ve never seen in any other film. Though unfortunately, it doesn’t have any appeal to view it, even if you were paid to experience it.