The Tree of Life

TOL posterFox Searchlight (2011) 139 min. PG-13

Director: Terrence Malick

Screenplay: Terrence Malick

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki

Editing: Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber & Mark Yoshikawa

Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jeanette Scott

Costumes: Jacqueline West

Score: Alexandre Desplat

Stars: Brad Pitt (Mr. O’Brien), Sean Penn (Jack), Jessica Chastain (Mrs. O’Brien), Hunter McCracken (Young Jack), Laramie Eppler (R.L.), Tye Sheridan (Steve), Fiona Shaw (Grandmother)

“Think of a tree, how it grows ‘round its roots. The branch breaks off, it don’t stop, but keeps reaching toward the light.” – The New World

Terrence Malick has always been an acquired taste. His movies are mood pieces paced to the cadence of internal monologues whispered rhetorically by his characters in hushed, reverential tones onscreen. Striving for more than the movie medium can encompass, he’s a visionary seeking to push past its restricting barriers to self-expression. When the man stays focused there’s no director better at vividly evoking the sentient, existential sensations of simple human perception. His movies pulsate with the vibrancy of life as we experience it at almost a subliminal level. They heighten our awareness in a way that makes us feel as if we were experiencing a movie fully awake and responsive for the first time.

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Prometheus

20th Century Fox (2012) 124 min. R

Director: Ridley Scott

Screenplay: Jon Spaihts & Damon Lindelof

Cinematography: Dariusz Wolski; Editing: Pietro Scalia

Production Design: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Sonja Klaus

Costumes: Janty Yates

Score: Marc Streitenfeld

Stars: Noomi Rapace (Elizabeth Shaw), Michael Fassbender (David), Charlize Theron (Meredith Vickers), Logan Marshall-Green (Charlie Holloway), Guy Pearce (Peter Weyland), Idris Elba (Janek), Patrick Wilson (Shaw’s father), Sean Harris (Fifield), Ian Whyte (Last Engineer)

Director Ridley Scott has given sci-fi cinema some of the classics of the genre, and while his latest, Prometheus, is impressively expansive and uncharacteristically philosophic, thanks to some slipshod editing, meandering continuity and inexplicable character motivation it just misses the mark of greatness. Still, there’s much in the movie to commend. The premise of Prometheus, in which a manned space mission sets out in search of the alien species who engineered the human race millennia ago, was inspired by theories advanced in Erich von Däniken’s 1968 book Chariots of the Gods?, which hypothesized that human progress could be traced to ancient aliens who interceded at some early point in our evolution. Continue reading