Let’s get something out of the way before delving into this particular film.
Director Terrence Malick will always be one of the greatest, most innovative directors to have ever made a movie. He has achieved legendary status with four masterpieces (Badlands, The Thin Red Line, The New World, The Tree of Life) and has made one very good movie (Days of Heaven) along with one absolute clunker (To the Wonder).
As for his latest starring Christian Bale and a host of great actresses like Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett? I’m afraid it’s closer to being another clunker than a masterpiece.
The film follows a Hollywood writer (Bale) as he suffers a crisis of conscience through multiple relationships and job circumstances. The film has no script to speak of, and the performers were all basically given notes on which to improvise.
This results in Bale walking around like a zombie for most of the movie, waiting to hear what surprises his co-performers have in store for him, and his reacting with befuddled looks and the occasional pat on the back.
He barely speaks in the movie (most of his dialogue appears to be in the voiceovers) and the whole affair is void of plot. Malick seems to be going in a very experimental direction with his latest movies, and they wind up feeling more like film school acting exercises than real films. His allowing actors to breathe a bit in the past has worked immeasurably well, but not this time. This time it’s tedious.
Everybody looks terrific in this movie, Portman, Blanchett and Teresa Palmer have some nice moments, but it just comes off as some sort of pretentious gimmick. This is coming from a major, hardcore Malick fan, so those of you who don’t like him in the first place will see this movie as pure hell.