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THE NEW WORLD
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi, Q’orianka Kilcher
Director: Terrence Malick
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Criterion
Features: See Review
Length: 172 Minutes (Extended Cut), 135 Minutes (Theatrical Cut), 150 Minutes (First Cut)
Release Date: July 26, 2016

Mother...now I know where you live.”

Film ****

Film critic Richard Roeper said it best; “We seem to change Presidents more often than Terrence Malick makes a film, but it’s always worth the wait.”

Few filmmakers are capable of striking the viewer’s senses the way that Terrence Malick does. He’s only made three films in a twenty-five year time period. His first was 1973’s Badlands, a lovers-on-the-lam-from-the-law road movie. The second was 1978’s Days of Heaven, a great depression saga featuring Richard Gere in one of his first film roles. His third film came twenty years later, in the form of The Thin Red Line, which is to this day the most absorbing World War II films ever made.

Malick’s 2005 piece, The New World, is a bold and ultimately haunting film which recreates the Jamestown discovery in addition to the romance that sparkles between English settler John Smith and a young Native American woman named Pocahontas. Chances are you’ve seen the Disney animated take on the story. But in terms of authenticity and magnificent filmmaking, Malick’s film is as brilliant and as precise as it gets.

Like Malick’s other films, the primary ingredient in the overall power of the story is the eccentric way in which he implies images and heavy doses of voice over narration provided by the central characters. By implying these devices, the story does nothing short of transporting the viewer to the period. If you saw The Thin Red Line and were captivated, then you’re likely to feel the same effect when watching this film.

The film opens with English settlers approaching a newfound piece of land in the year 1607. The land would later be known as Jamestown, but as the settlers move in to claim the new discover, Smith (Colin Farrell) is awestruck by the sight of the Pocahontas (Q’Orianka Kilcher). Once Smith is attacked held captive by the Powhatan tribe, she pleads with her father to spare his life. He does so, on account that the two share their culture with one another.

As they teach one another about their cultures, Smith and Pocahontas find themselves drawn to each other. It’s a feeling of love that neither can deny, although Pocahontas is afraid of the dangers it will bring if the English get word of it. Her people are much more accepting of the romance, but they too fear the worst.

As the story progresses, the two find themselves in a conflicted situation. Battles are fought between the English and the Natives, putting Smith in the worst type of predicament. Later in the story, Pocahontas’ crosses paths in England with John Rolfe (Christian Bale), a tobacco farmer who vies for her love. Unless you’re familiar with the story, you may find yourself surprised by how the love story plays out in the end.

The film boasts powerful and outstanding performances from its cast. Colin Farrell, who I’ve always liked, delivers the first true performance to illustrate to the masses that he is a serious actor and much more than the tabloid magnet everyone suspects him to be. Christian Bale, coming hot off the heels of his dynamic turn in Batman Begins, turns in a remarkably subtle turn as John Rolfe. Finally, newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher delivers what was really the star-making performance of 2005 as Pocahontas. How incredible that the Academy ignored her magical presence.

It’s a pure shame that the film was mostly ignored altogether at Oscar time. Thank goodness it managed to get recognized in the Best Cinematography category, which if it hadn’t it would’ve been a pure crime against cinema. But the main reason, I think, that it didn’t get its deserved shot at Oscar glory was the fact that Malick, at the last minute, was persuaded to cut the film by 15 minutes after its initial premiere last December. The newly cut version arrived in theaters the next month, shortly before all Oscar considerations were finalized.

However, Malick has gone back and recut the film beyond its first cut of 150 minutes. What we now have is an even more extravagant piece of storytelling that runs just seven minutes shy of three hours. Any pure admirer of Malick is in for a real treat here.

This isn’t what you call a massive reworking of the film, a la Ridley Scott’s brilliant Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven, but this Extended Cut does make the film a lot more epic that ever before. Malick has basically applied some extensions on pre-existing scenes, primarily in the voice over segments. Several new sequences have been added in, and the film has also been divided into chapters via a title for each section, which I found most appropriate. Both the extended scenes and new sequences bring so much more to the film and, in the end, make Malick’s intended vision so much more invigorating and absorbing.

This is quite simply a pure masterpiece of cinema. Terrence Malick is a filmmaker whose work is not for the impatient. However, those who appreciate visual filmmaking should not miss this monumental piece of work. It is a film experience that will stay with you long after you experience it.

Video ****

Terrence Malick and Criterion go hand and hand, and the results with this new three disc release of The New World are as astounding as one would imagine. Presented with a new 4k restoration for the Extended Cut, the 1080p brings the authentic and heavenly images of the Jamestown setting to vivid life, and the level of detail in the imagery is a purely sumptuous treat for the eyes. Colors are also a big plus, and are even more amazing in HD than they were in the standard DVD, which is really saying something. The magnificent quality of this release will have you feeling as if you have completely immersed yourself in the time period!

Audio ****

What was already a fantastic piece of DVD audio has now been elevated to that of an unforgettable sounding experience, thanks to quite a marvelous DTS HD mix (the previous Blu-ray carried a DolbyTrueHD one). Trust me when I say that every bit of the setting’s surroundings will capture your ear even more so than before. What’s more, James Horner’s wonderful score, as well as the use of Wagner’s “Das Rheingold Overture” (which bookends the film in a magnificent way), provide tremendous music playback, and a key battle sequence (which I also think is longer in this cut) gets a powerful treatment. An amazing sound presentation which will also make you feel as if you’ve been through a historical experience.

Features ****

Now finally, this movie has the listing of extras it deserves following some light servings on previous releases. Criterion has released a marvelous three disc package, each disc containing a different cut of the film (Disc One has the Extended Cut, which is the preferred version, while Disc Two contains the Theatrical Cut and Disc Three includes the very first cut of the film). All of the extras are spread across all three discs. On Disc One, there is a ten part making of documentary titled “Making The New World” (ported over from the previous Blu-ray release), as well as the Theatrical Trailer and Teaser for the film. Disc Two contains new interviews with Colin Farrell and Q’orianka Kilcher, as well as new interviews with producer Sarah Green, production designer Jack Fisk and costume designer Jacqueline West. And on Disc Three, there are new interviews with editors Hank Corwin, Saar Klein and Mark Yoshikawa. Finally, there is a wonderful and most detailed insert booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Tom Gunning, as well as a 2006 interview with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and a selection of materials which inspired the production! A truly marvelous Blu-ray package that only Criterion could bring to life!

Summary:

Thanks to the miracle of Blu-ray, The New World is now a complete release courtesy of the fine folks at Criterion. Terrence Malick’s complete vision of the film is now available with the terrific behind the scenes material that wasn’t included before. If you’re a fan of Malick’s work and have Blu-ray access, then owning this release is nothing short of a top priority! This Criterion release is without question one of the must own releases of the year!

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