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THE NEW WORLD
The Extended Cut

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi, Q’Orianka Kilcher
Director: Terrence Malick
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: See Review
Length: 172 Minutes
Release Date: October 14, 2008

“Love... shall we deny it when it visits us... shall we not take what we are given.”

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.

Now Malick has returned with his latest opus, The New World, 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 new 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 voiceover 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 ****

From what I could tell, there wasn’t much difference between the video quality on this version and the previous Theatrical cut previously available. However, The New World remains one of the single best visual offerings to ever emerge from New Line. Terrence Malick’s poetic eye is once again captured in extravagant beauty, and the colors of all the authentic settings appear gloriously in this phenomenally sharp and clear presentation. No flaws of any kind are detected, and by the end of the film you will definitely feel as though you were very much transported to the time period.

Audio ****

What more can I say? The 5.1 mix is as magnificent a piece of audio as you will ever find on a single DVD presentation. Malick also has a distinctive ear for his settings, as every possible sound within nature’s grasp is captured in this astounding presentation. 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. In short, this movie provides one of the best sound mixes you will ever experience in your lifetime.

Features (Zero Stars)

I can’t tell you how much I was let down by the absence of any extras whatsoever. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t do away with the previous disc of the movie, which included a well-handled ten-part documentary on the making of the film. I was under the impression that this extended cut was going to have more features to spare, but I suppose we can only cross our fingers for New Line or Criterion to release such an edition in the future.

Summary:

These days, Extended Cuts are usually nothing but marketing tools, and never really add anything more to the film. However, The New World offers a more worthy extended vision, and anyone who loved the original cut owe it to themselves to discover this new Extended Cut of the film, which brings a whole new epic feel to Terrence Malick’s sumptuous cinematic experience.

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