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The New World
cast: Colin Farrell, Christian Bale, Q'orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, and David Thewlis

director: Terrence Malick

132 minutes (12) 2005
widescreen ratio 16:9
EIV DVD Region 2 rental / retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
English colonists arrive in the newly discovered Americas, a blissful paradise inhabited by timid natives. But poor leadership and rotten food supplies soon threaten their survival. Their only hope is that the unreliable John Smith will be able to make contact with the natives' high king and agree trade terms. However, the only one the wounded and abandoned Smith comes to terms with is the king's daughter, Pocahontas. She risks everything to save the colonists, but when their relationship ends in tragedy, she journeys to a new world of her own, heading to Europe with new love John Rolfe...

Terrence Malick's epic is a fatally soporific film composed entirely of long rapturous images of nature, and beautiful couples wandering in the woods, smiling fondly at each other. Fine, I was expecting a slow and thoughtful movie, but this was like watching a two-hour shampoo commercial. Despite moments of real insight - the muted anarchy that has possessed the stockade while Smith was away, or a captured Native American's incomprehension of an English formal garden - the film fails to engage us emotionally in the story of any character. Pretentious voiceovers claim to explore their feelings, but simply swamp us with sentiment and cod philosophy, or report events that would have been stronger seen and heard.

A good cast, including Colin Farrell and Christian Bale, flounder among the endless sweeping vistas and meaningful looks, and Q'orianka Kilcher's Pocahontas remains a passive fantasy figure, rather than a real woman. The annoying thing is that there's probably a profound film to be made about the culture clash between the Old World and the New, and the foolhardy courage that brought them together, but Malick fails to find any meaning, political or personal, in the story.

Of course, Malick has his aficionados, and some people will no doubt love this film. However, the rest of us may find it hard to view it as anything more than a beautifully shot wasted opportunity.
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