From the Chicago Reader (January 6, 2008). — J.R.
No important American filmmaker in recent years has divided audiences more than writer-director Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line), and his fourth feature in 35 years pushed me for the first time into the skeptics’ corner. The subject matter is partly to blame: after four centuries of Anglo denial about the genocidal conquest of America, I was hoping for something a little more grown-up and educational about John Smith (Colin Farrell) and Pocahontas (the striking Q’Orianka Kilcher). Malick still has an eye for landscapes, but since Badlands (1973) his storytelling skill has atrophied, and he’s now given to transcendental reveries, discontinuous editing, offscreen monologues, and a pie-eyed sense of awe. All these things can be defended, even celebrated, but I couldn’t find my bearings. With Christopher Plummer, David Thewlis, and Christian Bale. PG-13, 135 min. (JR)