The New World (2005)

DVD Cover (New Line Studios)
Genres: Historical Epic, Historical Film, Romantic Epic
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Terrence Malick Terrence Malick
Colin Farrell Colin Farrell
Q'orianka Kilcher Q'orianka Kilcher
Christopher Plummer Christopher Plummer
Christian Bale Christian Bale
August Schellenberg August Schellenberg

6.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: January 25, 2006
Terrence Malick is a recluse...we all know that. He has directed four films in 32 years, all of which have taken their place amongst the greatest cinematic achievements of all-time. When he does take it upon himself to direct again, it is an event. When "The Thin Red Line" was released in 1998, it was overshadowed by Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan", another war epic. However, eight years later, I think few would disagree that Malick's masterpiece is a far more powerful statement than Spielberg's. Now, Malick comes to us with "The New World", his visionary re-telling of the romance between John Smith and Pocahontas, set against the backdrop of one of the most pivotal moments in American history. Malick's film, like all other Malick films, focuses heavily on nature and the environment and how they play such a significant role in every aspect of life. "The New World" is the kind of film that requires a great director in order to succeed, and they could have found no greater director than the Texan himself, Terrence Malick. When you think of great directors, men like Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard come to mind. They are on a separate level of greatness. Somewhere, high above them all, sits Terrence Malick, awaiting his next opus.

The film opens with one of the most gorgeous shots I have ever seen, with the Native Americans running along the banks, watching as the ships draw closer and closer to them. The phenomenal score by James Horner helps take the scene to a whole new level. The first scene I thought of was the opening sequence in Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" - Malick matches that sequence admirably. We soon meet Captain Newport (Christopher Plummer), who chews up screen time with inspirational speech after inspirational speech, even though his character comes across as slightly creepy and insidious. John Smith (Colin Farrell) is about to be hanged for mutiny when his life is spared, with the warning that he must straighten up his act. The film skips along fairly quickly as the men first encounter the 'naturals'. Eventually, John Smith is captured and almost killed, when his life is unexpectedly saved by the chief's beautiful daughter Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher). They immediately strike up a relationship. The film then follows the settlers through a harsh Winter and through incredible bouts of sickness until almost all of them have been picked off. When the boats return for them, John Smith leaves Pocahontas behind, introducing a man named John Rolfe (Christian Bale) into the scene. He loves Pocahontas, but her heart still remains loyal to John Smith. If you have the slightest amount of historical knowledge, you know how the rest goes down.

Here are some of the things I loved about this film: (01) that opening sequence. I have mentioned it already, but it deserves a repeat. The combination of that sequence with the James Horner music is brilliant and so powerful. Most directors wish they could pull that off; (02) the editing. I love how Terrence Malick employed an unusual editing technique compared to his other films. We get quick blackouts, strange jumps in time and sequencing, and even the occasional sequence that appears to be used as a dream sequence; (03) how the settlers treated Pocahontas. If this were any other film, the settlers would have jumped on the girl as soon as they saw her, raping her and having their way with her. Malick did not do that. The men respect Pocahontas. After she brings them food during the Winter, they form a strange connection with the girl and do no harm to her. Even when she is captured by the settlers, they treat her like a princess, which is also what they call her at first; (04) the music. James Horner has created the original score of the year, without a doubt. I have heard some people call his score irritating and overbearing, but I think it is just what it needs to be. The music is just as powerful and daunting as the film itself; and, (05) this was, easily, the most accessible Terrence Malick film yet. Sure, it still has those long gaps of silence where all we see is nature and the occasional voice narration, but for the most part, "The New World" is as mainstream as you could expect Terrence Malick to get. I don't see why more people did not venture out to see this film this past weekend. A film like "Underworld: Evolution" can rake up close to 30 million, and a masterpiece like "The New World" is left to pick up the crumbs. Even the contrived and pitiful "End of the Spear" made more money than this film, and that has to be one of the biggest cinematic travesties of all-time. Two Native American films and the bad one wins.

Terrence Malick has never been better. He is still at the very top of his game and I only hope he starts making films more frequently. Then again, maybe taking all of the time in between projects is a good thing for him - it might help him to focus entirely on one project for an extended period of time. He certainly cast the film exquisitely. In her debut film performance, Q'Orianka Kilcher is a star in the making. At 14-year-old, she essentially carries the entire film and never once lets down her guard. Colin Farrell erases the memory of "Alexander" with his turn as John Smith, one of the most emotionally charged roles he has had to play in a while. I thoroughly enjoyed Christopher Plummer in a fine supporting turn, as well as Christian Bale in a small, but crucial role for the film. And, when is Wes Studi not appreciated when he turns up on screen? But, the cast is not what makes this film work so well - it is the cinematography, the music, and the direction. This is Terrence Malick's film, not Colin Farrell's and not Q'Orianka Kilcher's. Years from now, people will look back on "The New World" and see it for what it truly is - one of the greatest cinematic achievements of the past decade. It eclipses "The Thin Red Line". Terrence Malick is a genius.

So, here are my suggestions for the Academy: Q'Orianka Kilcher for Best Supporting Actress, Terrence Malick for Best Director, James Horner for Best Original Score, and "The New World" for Best Picture of the year. I hope the Academy honors this film in some capacity, if only to increase word of mouth and give this picture some added revenue. I still remain in awe at the fact that a cheap Native American knock-off like "End of the Spear" could rake in a million dollars more than an epic re-telling of one of the most dramatic moments in American history. Is the general public just not familiar enough with Terrence Malick? Would it have helped if this film were directed by Brett Ratner or Renny Harlin? Maybe, because both "After the Sunset" and "Mindhunters" ended up making more than this film, and that is a crying shame. "The New World" is an epic, a masterpiece of modern cinema that has no equal in the subject matter. Terrence Malick is getting better and better, which means his next film will be the greatest of all-time. Don't believe me? This guy could direct a sequel to "Marci-X" and have it bring the audience to tears.

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