Colin Farrell, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer,
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
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.