Introduced by critic Matt Zoller Seitz
Dir. Terrence Malick. 1998, 170 mins. 35mm. With Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel, Ben Chaplin, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Elias Koteas, Nick Nolte, John C. Reilly, John Travolta. Malick’s return from a rumor-shrouded, twenty-year silence, this World War II epic marks not only a professional comeback, but a major turning point in the filmmaker’s art. Adapting James Jones’s novel about the 1942 Guadalcanal campaign, a treatise on the dehumanizing and deterministic nature of modern war, Malick fashions a free-form work of overflowing humanity, of men adrift in the awesome spectacle of the natural world and the horrific theater of a human-made cataclysm. Through the choral narration of an ensemble cast (including a titanic Nick Nolte), Hans Zimmer’s minimalist score, and John Toll’s roving, steadicam cinematography, Malick fashions a new form for narrative cinema where the existential questioning buried in the roots of Badlands
and Days of Heaven
sprouts into the flowering impulse behind every moment of this vaulted, cathedral-like masterpiece.
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