New World, The
Starring:
Colin Farrell, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale
Directed By:
Terrence Malick
Grade
A-

Writer/director Terrence Malick doesn't care what your idea of how a historical film should be presented. He's going to give you a film that forces the viewer to piece together the events themselves. Whole sequences of the movie will be more about the visual esthetic, actions and reactions and the unspoken movements of the characters rather than a verbal stringing together of plot devices.

The New World tells the story of the founding of the Jamestown settlement in 1607. The English settlers, including John Smith, find themselves barely able to survive as their provisions become spoiled. When Smith goes to the Natives Americans for a possible trade, he is held captive. If not for the actions of Pocahontas, he would have been killed. In his time with the natives, Smith learns their language and develops a relationship with the young woman. When he returns to Jamestown, he must hold together the ragged remains of the settlement, which is near starvation.

When is becomes obvious that the English are not leaving, they come in conflict with the natives. Because of her aid to the English, Pocahontas is banished from her tribe. Through a series of events, Pocahontas comes to live at Jamestown and Smith is called back to England. Some time after Pocahontas is told of Smith's death, she develops a relationship with John Rolfe and eventually meets with the English royalty.

In terms of casting, the core of the cast is suitable for their roles. Colin Farrell is perfect for the role of the conflicted John Smith. Even though he's in love, he makes decisions that lead him down a difficult path. Instead of embracing the young woman, he pushes her away and even leads her to believe he has died at sea. The young Q'Orianka Kilcher is good in her first role, though she really doesn't break herself outside of her quiet shell. Christian Bale's role as John Rolfe plays a nice balance to Farrell's more emotional presence. He's solid and unwavering in his role.

Sets, costuming and makeup do a nice job at capturing the time period well. There's certainly a rustic feel to every aspect of the film. James Horner's soundtrack certainly follows the artistic flow of the film, present only at certain times, but still flowing in when needed to accentuate certain nonverbal sequences.

I won't pull any punches when I say that The New World is not for everyone. It's to and a half hours long and a lot of time is spent in offering a more artistic representation of the world. Many sequences are mere poetry on screen and certain plot events are more implied than anything. The viewer will actually have to think for themselves for a good portion of the movie. There are some moments that drag on and can get a bit tedious, but for the most part, I applaud Malick for choosing not to dumb down his film for the average viewer.

If you interested in viewing a take on the early days of American settlers, then The New World is exactly what you need. But, be sure to bring an open mind and some patience, or you may be too frustrated to see it to the end.

- - Kinderfeld

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