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Film Studies 101
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Colin Farrell
Christopher Plummer
Christian Bale
David Thewlis
Noah Taylor
Q'orianka Kilcher.
Terrence Malick.
Terrence Malick.
Running Time
150 minutes

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The New World
Colin Farrell is John Smith in Terrence Malick's telling of the Pocahontas story.

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Virginia, 1607. As the English establish a settlement in Jamestown, disgraced soldier of fortune John Smith (Farrell) leads an expedition to establish trade with the Native Americans. Smith is captured by a tribe but released by the chief (August Schellenberg) to his favourite daughter Pocahontas (Kircher) in order to gain insight into the outsider’s intentions.

The New World
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Where there were some 21 years between Terrence Malick’s second (Days Of Heaven) and third (The Thin Red Line) films, there has been only a breezy seven years between the third and this one. But Malickites who may have feared that he rushed off any old tripe in such a short space of time can rest assured — his reinvigoration of the Pocahontas myth is the director working near the peak of his powers. Far too daring to trouble the Academy, far too niche to worry about opening weekends, The New World finds poetry in emotion (and vice versa) and once again reminds us that movies are far too rich to be the domain of the storytellers only.

From frame one, you know you’re deep in Malick country. The film begins with a virtually dialogue-free, ten-minute sequence. To the strains of James Horner in minimalist, near-Philip Glass mode, the arrival of three English ships docking on the James River becomes a joyous set-piece of discovery and wonder. As the Europeans subsequently battle the Native Americans during the creation of the Jamestown settlement, Malick tempers the love story, action sequences and cuts of tribal life with his favourite concerns — a couple at odds with societal constraints, the primitive versus the modern, the purity of nature versus human hubris.

What could be a dry history lesson is turned into something unique and quietly heartfelt. Yet what really dazzles about The New World is that it is like looking at life through different eyes. In other hands, Smith (Colin Farrell) and Pocahontas’ (Q’Orianka Kilcher) initial courtship as they prance through fields could have been Pastoral Romance 101 (remember Attack Of The Clones?), but Malick makes it both sweet and affecting, conveying how the couple come alive to each other and their surroundings through images alone. Despite being Malick’s most straightforward narrative since Badlands — the joyous courtship gives way to a downbeat study of loss, as Pocahontas believes Smith to be dead and is integrated into life with the white settlers who incongruously name her Rebecca — he still imbues the rituals and rhythms of 17th century life with a visual/aural lyricism that reaches places CGI can’t touch. As perhaps befits a stranger in a strange land, Farrell spends much of the movie looking befuddled and bewildered. Christian Bale, who turns up in a touching, tender final third as an aristocrat who takes Pocahontas back to England, underplays to a tee, letting his innate decency eke out under a lifetime of restraint. But, performance-wise, the movie belongs to 15 year-old newcomer Kilcher, who bursts with energy and curiousity early on, her innocence giving way to a touching study of grief as her world crumbles around her. It’s fresh, instinctive and — in a just world — an award-winning performance.

Yet take note: The New World will most certainly not appeal to everyone. The pace is so slow, it would have to pull over to let a funeral go by. There are competing voiceover narrations, unclear character motivations and untold pauses for breath; Malick revels in repetitions of images of burbling water, birds taking off, burbling water, swaying grass, burbling water... But if you give yourself over to Malick’s sensibility and his feel for cultures colliding, this feels less like indulgence and more like an absorbing, sumptuous and ultimately moving luxury.

Definitely an acquired taste — the pace is ponderous, the storytelling approach oblique and the studied quality of the imagery potentially distancing — but The New World is a handcrafted original in a morass of Cheaper By The Dozen 2s. Malick’s magic remains undiminished.

Reviewed by Ian Freer

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Average user rating for The New World
Empire Star Rating

One of the most beautiful films i've ever seen

I didnt find it boring for a second, it was just pure escapism And fundamental in two worlds, two people coming together and affecting the other One to buy ... More

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Posted by monkeyhumour at 08:00, 23 August 2010 | Report This Post

avatar it aint

attention jimbo - this is how this kind of story is done PROPERLY. true class with no smurfs or, that guy out of toy soldiers or aliens having sex in sight. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by elvoys at 13:56, 24 January 2010 | Report This Post


This is very good! But slow sometimes... P.S. There will be blood? Your favourite American film of the decade? The actors are good... but the film is really boring and NOTHING happens! ... More

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Posted by madcreator12 at 18:01, 17 January 2010 | Report This Post


Along with THERE WILL BE BLOOD this remains my favourite AMERICAN film of the decade. ... More

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Posted by bobbyperu at 12:36, 07 June 2009 | Report This Post


Along with THERE WILL BE BLOOD this remains my favourite AMERICAN film of the decade. ... More

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Posted by bobbyperu at 12:36, 07 June 2009 | Report This Post

Just watch this film. Astounding. My first Mallick and certainly not my last. A masterpiece. ... More

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Posted by mafyou at 11:26, 19 July 2007 | Report This Post

Sublime film-making.

With this re-telling of the Pocahontas myth Terrence Malick yet again demonstrates why, regardless of his relatively small body of work, he is one of the most gifted American film-makers working today. At the heart of the film is the romance between Colin Farrel's 17th century English colonist and Q'Orianka Kilker's young, native American woman. Both play their parts superbly and are complemented by a strong supporting cast, most notably Christian Bale who makes an appearance as an English arist... More

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Posted by Spectre at 19:41, 02 May 2007 | Report This Post

Close your eyes and it's still beautiful

With an almost constant soundtrack of birds and insects, this film is both a visual and aural treat, and that's before you add in some of the most affecting music I've encountered in recent years. It is very slow in parts but once understood as a whole this may stand up very well to repeated viewings, and could become a rediscovered classic in the future. What also sets this film apart from other movies involving violent conflict, is it's almost total concentration on 2 characters means th... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by enemysprout at 13:18, 06 February 2007 | Report This Post

The New World

Great film. Loved the music, the acting, the design, the direction, the cinematography... Yes it was slow, but it gave you more time to appreciate everything, and I felt there was a good emotional payoff at the end too, although some would complain it wasn't enough of a "climax". To those guys, don't worry, Terminator IV is on its way. ... More

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Posted by jncorbett at 17:00, 24 September 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Fantastic

Its by far the best film I've seen this year, but it really needs to be seen on an awesomely large cinema screen with extra loud sound. The editing and use of music during the closing scenes was nothing short of awesome, I got quite emotional    I'd like to see the rumoured extended dvd cut thats supposed to be coming out sometime in the future but don't if the film would work so well watching it on a tv. It won't be everybodys liking, especially those who hire it after looking at ... More

Posted by Indio at 22:09, 04 September 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Fantastic

I wrote a review about this a few months ago when it came out here.  I just loved it.  It has it's own pace which may not appeal to some, but the story is beautiful and the cinematography gorgeous.  I couldn't have enjoyed it more. ... More

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Posted by lulu karma at 21:49, 04 September 2006 | Report This Post


I thought it was really wonderful at times - it really is the sort of film you don't see very often and IMO sometimes it's nice just to sit back and absorb the visuals. The minimal dialogue just adds to the sense of peace and beauty.   *** SPOILER ***   That said I think it drags on a bit and the return to England and subsequent meeting with the royals doesn't quite fit with the rest of the movie, however overall I thoroughly enjoyed it. ... More

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Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 20:31, 03 September 2006 | Report This Post


He's a very confused man. I say we give him a chance before banning him. His comments have been mildly amusing, in a pitiful kind of way. ... More

Posted by TheManWithNoShame at 20:43, 02 September 2006 | Report This Post


Oh dear, just the one fight scene, I can understand your disappointment. Not a single cameo appearance from Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Seagal or Snipes either. ... More

Posted by Indio at 20:33, 02 September 2006 | Report This Post

RE: The New World

This is a beautiful film. It is simply poetry. Very quiet and subtle it is, I think, a masterpiece. Stunning. Unfortunatly it feels as long as the Odyssey! That's the only place it looses something for me, is that even though it's not that long it does feel very, very, very long. 4/5 ... More

Posted by Satine at 18:46, 08 February 2006 | Report This Post

RE: The New World

Opinions of Terrence Malick films are generally composed of two camps. The first thinks that his films are emotional pieces of cinema showing mans bond with nature against compelling, romantic and traumatic circumstances. The other thinks that his films are overlong, overly pretentious and bogged down with droning voices-overs questioning the beauty of nature. To be fair, both are right and you see them both point of views clearly in his latest film.   The New World tells the story of ... More

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Posted by Timon at 15:00, 05 February 2006 | Report This Post


I thought this was superb, maybe even better than The Thin Red Line. The film IS slow moving, but it is well worth the effort, I found the emotional ending was staggering.    As with The Thin Red Line, there WERE signs of the film having been edited down from a longer previous cut, but I still found the film immensely rewarding. I just think its a tragedy that the film has only been nominated for the one Oscar (for the frankly beautiful cinematography) , it deserves to receive a ... More

Posted by Indio at 23:22, 04 February 2006 | Report This Post


I loved this movie, being a student of nature and wildlife myself its nice to see a movie that incompasses that so well. A different pace of a movie, reminded me of Brokeback in the style that it had little dialogue and great scenery.   I thought Colin Farell did really well but hes not a patch on Christian Bale. The young Kilcher was amazing she will go far that girl, she had great presence against the bigger names.   The only problem I had with the movie is its rating 12A? F... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ladykiller at 18:05, 04 February 2006 | Report This Post

The New World

It has been seven years since Terrence Malick last blessed us with one of his unique cinematic visions. After his twenty year hiatus between 1978's Heaven]The Thin Red Linemost enigmatic of American filmmakers is only now making his fourth film in over thirty years. However, what he lacks in quantity he more than makes up for in quality; Malick doesn't make films often, but when he does they tend to be worth the wait. Worldick's latest conundrum. On the surface the film is a retelling of... More

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Posted by Philconcannon at 22:48, 30 January 2006 | Report This Post


L: boz67 Total crap. sp; ta love the reader reviews on this forum. ... More

Posted by CaseyRyback at 20:48, 30 January 2006 | Report This Post


Sounds like a typically Terence Malick film to me, full of visual flair but with no substance. IMO this guy is up his own arse. I hated A Thin Red Line so I shall not be going to see this. ... More

Posted by MuckyMuckMan at 14:28, 30 January 2006 | Report This Post

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