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. --Doug Thomas
Extended version of the epic adventure set amidst the first encounter of European and Native American cultures during the founding of the Jamestown Virginia Settlement in 1607. The film follows Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher) and her relationships with adventurer John Smith (Colin Farrell) and aristocrat John Rolfe (Christian Bale). This woman's remarkable journey of love lost and found takes her from the untouched beauty of the Virginia wilderness to the upper crust of English society as we witness the dawn of a new America.