Review: The New World (2005)


Terrence Malick reaches far but comes up a little bit short.

Written By: Terrence Malick
Directed By: Terrence Malick

Like any Terrence Malick work, The New World is full of breathtaking visuals and is a cinema delight to view. Most of the story is conveyed through the cinematography, the landscape and the looks and mannerisms of the actors. In that sense The New World is a tremendous film that is quite different from most movies being produced today. In a sparse movie with extremely limited dialogue a shot of a crop of trees elicits the same emotional response that a five minute conversation between two characters would. That type of powerful film making is what separates Mr. Malick from most other directors. Mr. Malick’s other distinct trait is his willingness to question everything in his movies. The New World is no different, love is questioned, as is once again humanities role in nature as well as the idea of the culture of the white man versus the culture of the Indian. Unfortunately that questioning is also what causes The New World to falter.

The New World suffers because of how easily it falls into the classical stereotype of the cruel white man versus the utopian Indian. But, it suffers most of all because it does at times shatter this stereotype and recognize the fact that the culture of the Indians was just as fractured as that of the white man and they were capable of the same cruelty as the white man. Despite its willingness to shatter the long held stereotype of Indian and white man relations it falls too easily back into the same stereotype when it repeatedly pictures the Indians as an idyllic society, capable of no wrong that is besieged by the evil, and utterly incapable of humanity, culture of the white man. It’s sad that Mr. Malick fell into that stereotype because The New World had all the makings of a tremendous Terrence Malick picture after it shattered those stereotypes. It should come as no surprise that I was taken aback to view the descent back into the stereotypical world after it had been left behind.

The acting of Christian Bale, Q’orianka Kilcher and yes, even Colin Farrell did tremendously help a disjointed narrative. For as much as the cinematography told the story, it wasn’t a story that ever felt whole. There were abrupt cuts in time, actions taken that didn’t make all that much sense, and the story having to kowtow to the aforementioned stereotypes. But, Mr. Bale, Miss Kilcher and Mr. Farrell kept the narrative from becoming so disjointed as to derail the movie. Miss Kilcher especially brought a lot to the film, her mere look was enough to draw you back in and let you forget that the narrative had once again gone astray.

The New World is a good entry in Mr. Malick’s body of work, but it isn’t close to being in league with his best. It contains enough positive attributes to be worth a watch, and asks enough questions to be worth multiple viewings. But, it is stopped from being a truly great Terrence Malick film by its stereotypical nature and the cracked narrative. Still, like with any Terrence Malick film, if your brain is aching for a work out, look no further than The New World.



Bill Thompson

6 responses to “Review: The New World (2005)

  1. drawkward86

    If you’re interested, check out my thoughts at:

  2. The ‘weaknesses’ of the film that you identify/hint at could easily be leveled at any of his movies – that elusiveness-stereotyped-moral-high-ground might describe his subjective view of WWII through the lens of ‘The Thin Red Line’. He takes a brave moral stand in both movies, evident of a consistent vision, not one that works in one context, but not the other. In both films, he creates transcendental beauty out of ‘ugly’ historical moments, striving to remind us of the fragile beauty that exists all around us – both films profoundly moved me equally in the same manner, and therefore I cannot rank one over the other.

  3. In The Thin Red Line I never felt that Malick attempted to make any sort of statement, he showed the depth of conflict within soldiers at the ground level as they enter war. However, if he did take a side he was consistent in that.

    In The New World I felt he tried to side with the Indians, then switched sides, then went back again when it suited him. I have no problem with him making a stand or taking a side, I merely wanted him to stay consistent within the narrative of the film.

  4. Liked the film and thought it was visually more satisfying than Thin Red Line, but its more narrative does get a bit jumbled. Check out my review:

  5. I agree that the narrative is a tad more jumbled in this one, but still a good film.

  6. Pingback: The New World (2005) | timneath

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