In 1607, three ships sailed across the Atlantic to the shores of what became known as Jamestown, Virginia. The arrival of these Europeans changed forever, the history of the native people already living peacefully in this fertile country. Writer-director Terrence Malick, who has been waiting 25 years to tell this story, finally gets his chance in the breathtaking epic THE NEW WORLD. Colin Farrell stars as Captain John Smith, a British mutineer facing execution, who finds a new purpose and a dangerous love in this new land. Smith falls for the young and beautiful Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher, in her first major role), who happens to be the daughter of the Indian chief Powhatan (August Schellenberg), thus laying the groundwork for trouble ahead. The Indians are both fascinated and frightened of the Europeans; uncertain whether they are friend or foe. Suspicion, desire, greed, lust, and power soon combine to make them mortal enemies. Using natural lighting, carefully reconstructed forts (James Fort) and villages (Werowocomoco), realistic weaponry, fabulous makeup and costumes, and even a re-creation of the Algonquin language, Malick has made a majestic historical drama that transports viewers back to early 17th century America. Complimented by James Horner's (BRAVEHEART, TITANIC) percussion-based score and Emmanuel Lubezki's emotive photography, THE NEW WORLD is a compelling exploration into the very beginning of American history.
The legend of Pocahontas and John Smith receives a luminous and essential retelling by maverick filmmaker Terrence Malick. The facts of Virginia's first white settlers, circa 1607, have been told for eons and fortified by Disney's animated films: explorer Smith (Colin Farrell) and the Native American princess (newcomer Q'orianka Kilcher) bond when the two cultures meet, a flashpoint of curiosity and war lapping interchangeably at the shores of the new continent. Malick, who took a twenty year break between his second and third films (Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line), is a master of film poetry; the film washes over you, with minimal dialogue (you see characters speak on camera for less than a quarter of the film).
The rest of the words are a stream-of-consciousness narration--a technique Malick has used before but never to such degree, creating a movie you feel more than watch. The film's beauty (shot in Virginia by Emmanuel Lubezki) and production design (by Jack Fisk) seems very organic, and in fact, organic is a great label for the movie as a whole, from the dreadful conditions of early Jamestown (it makes you wonder why Englishman would want to live there) to the luminescent love story. Malick is blessed with a cast that includes Wes Studi, August Schellenberg, Christopher Plummer, and Christian Bale (who, curiously, was also in the Disney production). Fourteen-year-old Kilcher, the soul of the film, is an amazing find, and Farrell, so often tagged as the next big thing, delivers his first exceptional performance since his stunning debut in Tigerland. James Horner provides a fine score, but is overshadowed by a Mozart concerto and a recurring prelude from Wagner's Das Rheingold, a scrumptious weaving of horns fit to fuel the gentle intoxication of this film. Note: the film was initially 150 minutes, and then trimmed to 135 by Malick before the regular theatrical run. It was also the first film shot in 65mm since Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet.