New World

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Movie Review by EDF

Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale

Director: Terrence Malick

Some film directors are prolific; others appear with a movie when they feel that the time is right. The late Stanley Kubrick was notorious for this kind of attitude, as well as subjecting his cast and crew through what seemed like an infinity of takes until he was happy with the performances in front of the camera. Since most of Kubrick’s movies are regarded as classics and there is a gap for this kind of eccentric filmmaking, Terrence Malick can now step forward and lay claim to this title, as this is his fourth movie in over thirty years. While the critics have celebrated Malick’s previous movies as classics, they have hardly set the box office on fire. Can THE NEW WORLD bring Malick the box office success that has somehow eluded him so far?

In 1607, three English ships crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of unknown treasures. They established the settlement of Jamestown. Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) is sent off to gather food where his expedition party comes across the native Powhatan tribe. All but Smith was killed and the tribe take him to their village. There he encounters Chief Powhatan’s (August Schellenberg) daughter, Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher), who becomes his guide. With enough food to help the settlement survive winter, Smith returns to Jamestown.

When the spring comes and the Powhatan tribe discovers that the settlement is staying put, the tribe wages war. Pocahontas alerts Smith of the impending attack and with his men defeat the tribe. When the Chief realises that his daughter has betrayed him, Pocahontas is banished from the tribe. She lives among the settlers and slowly adapts to their way of life. Smith is called back to England to lead more expeditions and informs one of his men to tell Pocahontas that he had died on his travels.

Mourning the loss of her love, it is the arrival of widowed English aristocrat John Rolfe (Christian Bale) who eventually draws Pocahontas back out of her shell. Both of them have suffered personal losses and Pocahontas comes to know and fall in love with Rolfe. They eventually marry and have a son. Rolfe brings his family to England where Pocahontas meets the King and Queen. Word reaches Pocahontas that Smith is still alive and Rolfe asks her to choose between the two men.

This story is an idea that Malick has had with him since the 1970’s. The movie is well over two hours long with about a fifth of that lacking any sort of dialogue. While this will give the viewer a fascinating sense of being a stranger in a strange land, this type of storytelling has been done in other movies before. This is all well and good if you can follow what is going on but sometimes you need more than emotive acting to engage the viewer. In fact, the Oscar winning like cinematography is beautiful and the long, slow moving shots of nature jump out from the screen, lulling you, if one can be so bold to say, to sleep. While it is great to see a movie that does not rely on CGI, THE NEW WORLD comes across as both a cold and slow movie. While attempts have been made to make the Powhatan tribe as authentic as possible, it is almost like watching a documentary. You do not feel any attachment to anyone except for Kilcher and Bale’s characters. Also despite Colin Farrell trying hard to be emotive, you don’t really care about his character. With news that there will be a longer DVD version, this does not bode well before a movie hits the cinema. Critics will love this movie and as for the moviegoer, I’ll let you decide.

2 out of 6 stars