Okay, so Tree of Life was released forever ago, but managed to never find a home in Utah theatres. It finally found its way to DVD and in my hands via Redbox. My review of Terrance Mallick's towering film follows...
BRIEFLY: Both Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain execute near perfect performances through very little dialogue but cleverly nuanced performances. Indeed, they say more by not saying anything at all. Though the film aspires to be a cosmic melting pot of everyday life and the towering power of nature, it struggles to find a foothold at least initially. After that, Mallick's film is a stunning work which literally connects us to the cosmos through visuals that scream to be seen. At nearly 3 hours, the film is a little overlong, but Mallick overall does a fine job encapsulating the ultimate human condition--life itself. One warning though, If your favorite TV show is Keeping the Kardashians or you actually read Twilight, you'll without doubt HATE this movie. Bottom line: Tree of Life is not a film for the motion picture illiterate crowd.
DEATILED REVIEW: What is so breathtaking about Tree of Life is its deeply moving cinematography. Quite possibly never before has light and darkness, shadow and substance, said so much by also managing to show so little. If the cinematography doesn't win an Oscar hell will have had to froze over, because its like a poet has shot this film (And of course I mean that in a GOOD way).
The film covers a lot of ground from the primeval beginnings of Earth to the nostalgic 1950's of Texas. All the while Mallick reminds us of both how big and small we are in relation to the grandiose scale of the universe. Its an interesting dichotomy between nature and grace (life) that Mallick weaves together through the images. In fact aside from whispering voice overs, Tree of Life has very little dialogue, instead relying again on the image as well as its subsequent relation to both the image that precedes it and follows it. It's complicated to explain and far more effective to see for yourself.
The biggest gripe with the film is that the movement is a little slow--but i guess isn't life in and of itself a slow process? the pacing at times is uneven and some of the images are too abstract when they should be more direct. Also the special effects are very well done with the lone exception being that of a scene involving dinosaurs. Why Mallick chose to make them less real than anything else in the film is any one's guess. I mean its 2011, dinosaurs should look real--they did in 1993 with Jurassic Park after all. Sean Penn also has very little to do with the film which seems to be an entirely big waste of his talent. In fact he might be on camera only about 10 or 15 minutes total in the 3 hour epic. (I could be wrong on his actual screen time, but he felt completely absent)
Overall, the film is a stunning example of the creative minds of filmmakers. Its ideas are at times challenging, but the attention to image as it relates to story is so well thought out to almost meticulously molecular levels that its hard both to look away and not be affected by them. Tree of Life might very well be our generations film equivalent to the literary War & Peace. Only time (and the primordial inevitability of nature) will tell...
Now it's time for something decidedly "low-brow"...
Found it... :)