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The New World(2005)
In 1607, three ships sailed across the Atlantic to the shores of what became known as Jamestown, Virginia. The arrival of these Europeans changed forever the history of the native people already living peacefully in this fertile land. Captain John Smith, a British mutineer facing execution who finds a new purpose--and a dangerous love--in this new land. Smith falls for the young and beautiful Pocahontas.
For more about The New World and the The New World Blu-ray release, see the The New World Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on September 16, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, Q'orianka Kilcher, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi
Director: Terrence Malick
» See full cast & crew
The New World Blu-ray Review
An intoxicating, deliberately paced tour de force...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, September 16, 2009
If ever there was a marketing campaign designed to conceal the tone and tenor of a film, it's that of The New World. Its trailers promise a rousing period drama, its posters hint at a raging conflict, its official synopsis includes words like "deadly," "visceral," and "fray." Even its high definition debut, arriving some four years after the film's theatrical release, features a rare action sequence on its cover and exploits it for all it's worth. As it stands, director Terrence Malick's name is one of the only clues Warner provides to help newcomers deduce the true nature of the film, and it's been relegated to the back of the box. As such, a warning seems to be in order: The New World is not The Last of the Mohicans. It's not a traditional Hollywood epic at all. It's filled with meandering shots of nature, stalled character beats, extended silences, obsessive experiments with light and shadow, and slow, static glimpses into the oft-times mundane annals of history. It's arthouse cinema, pure and simple; a film that will appeal to everyone except those its various marketing campaigns have been eager to court.
Still here? Good. If you're anything like me, you know beauty sometimes transcends celluloid; that the essence of a film is often more important than its adherence to a three-act structure or any number of established genre conventions; that the soul of a story is more imperative to a film's legacy than its entertainment value. The New World isn't just a fitting entry in Malick's challenging canon, it's a stunning, brilliantly shot study of clashing cultures; an intriguing overview of all the things civilization has forgotten in its conquest and industrialization of the new world.
Having chiseled his teeth with Badlands, Days of Heaven, and The Thin Red Line -- three divisive films spread over twenty-five years -- Malick turned his attention to the intertwined 17th century stories of English soldier and new world explorer Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell), Powhatan princess and emissary Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher), and settler and tobacco farmer John Rolfe (Christian Bale). The writer/director's fifth film opens in 1607 as three colonial ships arrive on the shores of a region destined to become Virginia. With a script cobbled together from historical accounts and accepted folklore, Malick introduces a rather unorthodox incarnation of Smith, follows him into the heart of Powhatan territory, details his initial encounters with Pocahontas and her father (August Schellenberg), and documents the period of time Smith spent living with the natives. Sadly, as the European presence stirs up hostility amongst the Powhatan people, violence erupts, pinning Smith and Pocahontas, now lovers, between two enemies. Eventually, a reluctant peace is forged, Smith returns to England, and Pocahontas, struggling with depression, meets someone new: Rolfe, a kind-hearted settler who feels sympathy for the young woman. Along the way, Malick presents startling images of nature to chart the Powhatan idealist's inner-turmoil and conflict, as well as her feelings for both men. However, despite Farrell and Bale's key roles in the narrative, The New World is Pocahontas' story and, by extension, Kilcher's film.
To Malick's casting credit, Kilcher is a godsend. At just fourteen years old, she commands the screen with the doe-eyed presence of a veteran three times her age. An innocent face and her relative inexperience factor into the effectiveness of her performance, but Kilcher manages to project a sense of wonder onto the screen that makes her character's love more believable, her vulnerability more endearing, her brush with despondency more agonizing, and her development as a woman more potent. Farrell and Bale give her plenty to work with -- one simmers with raw passion, the other bides his time with genuine affection -- but it's Kilcher, and Kilcher alone, who capitalizes on their offerings to create cinema's definitive Pocahontas. The rest of the film is brimming with excellent supporting performances as well. A grim-faced Wes Studi (Magua in The Last of the Mohicans) makes a memorable appearance as a brooding tribal chief, Christopher Plummer injects gravitas into the proceedings as Smith's own captain, and other notable faces bring their own unique contributions to the perfectly-cast project.
But it's Malick's melding of script and spirit, image and emotion, dialogue and truth that leaves such a lasting impression. Whether watching Pocahontas study the sky through a canopy of trees, Smith peer through a fortress wall to spot approaching warriors, or Rolfe stare lovingly at a woman whose heart will never entirely belong to him, Malick and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki craft a searing series of gorgeous scenes that are nothing short of breathtaking. Yet The New World is as much about a collision of two philosophies as it is about a violent intersection in history; as much about the uncertainty of honor and loyalty as it is about Pocahontas' tangled love triangle. I'm sure Malick will continue to draw his share of critics and detractors, but it's difficult to deny the confidence and impact of such a dazzling vision. Though some will will call the results dull and listless, and others will accuse the director of pretentious, self-indulgent filmmaking, anyone who appreciates the grace and artistry Malick brings to his work will lose themselves within his vast expanses and sumptuous photography. That the story itself is so captivating is merely a welcome perk amidst countless aesthetic wonders.
Still here? Chances are The New World is for you. More leisurely than slow, more mesmerizing than monotonous, more beautiful than enthralling, Malick's 17th century tale is as powerful and infectious as they come. Personally, I prefer the theatrical cut to the 172-minute Director's Cut featured on this release, but not by much. While including both versions would have been ideal, the absence of the original cut shouldn't prevent anyone from sampling the film's striking cinematography and lyrical imagery. A rental is probably in order, but at such a low price point, it almost makes more sense to add The New World to your cart and offload the disc if the film doesn't appeal to your sensibilities. Chances are, having been armed with appropriate expectations, you won't regret a purchase.
The New World Blu-ray, Video Quality
Honestly, it would be easy to overlook a variety of technical flaws with cinematography like this. Thankfully, I didn't have to. Warner's 1080p/VC-1 transfer is simply magnificent, faithfully capturing the vibrancy, depth, and richness of Malick's visuals, and presenting them with polish and proficiency. Vivid colors grace even the darkest frames, lending urgency to Smith's impromptu Powhatan trial, warmth to Rolfe's courtship of Pocahontas, and vitality to her pleas with the natural world. Moreover, shadows are equally absorbing, black levels fittingly deep, and contrast confident and healthy. And detail? Detail is exquisite throughout. Setting aside some intentional softness attributable to the original print, fine textures are refined (particularly on clothing, furs, and faces), delineation is revealing, and foreground definition is nearly impeccable. Some minor edge enhancement appears on occasion -- watch the roofs of the colonial buildings for fleeting evidence of the issue -- but it's so negligible that it barely registers as a distraction. For the most part, the image is exceedingly clean. Artifacting, source noise, aliasing, and noise reduction are nowhere to be found, and only the intermittent appearance of faint banding threatens (if ever-so-briefly) to spoil the transfer's technical prowess.
As it stands, The New World boasts one of the better catalog transfers I've had the opportunity to review this year. Fans will certainly be pleased with the film's treatment (especially if they compare the Blu-ray edition to its dated DVD counterpart), newcomers will be shocked to see how much visual oomph thirteen dollars can buy, and even the most hardened critics will admit this disc has serious value. Three hours be damned, The New World looks fantastic from beginning to end.
The New World Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Quiet, score-driven scenery may not seem like a suitable meal for an able-bodied Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track, but The New World benefits from the lossless upgrade. Dialogue is crisp and nicely prioritized, James Horner's music is soothing and stable, and the occasional burst of LFE power is hearty and robust. Rear speaker activity is often limited to chirping birds and rustling leaves, but the track leaves nothing out. Ambience is precise and persistent, presenting the slightest cricket call with the same care as the most frightening Powhatan war cry. Directionality is accurate, placing each element of the soundscape in its proper place and creating an immersive soundfield in the process. While audiophiles won't be fooled into looking over their shoulders, interior acoustics are convincing and distant effects appear exactly where they should. Will it turn heads and anger the neighbors? Definitely not. Does it compliment the studio's video transfer and Malick's visuals? Without a doubt. All in all, fans will be quite pleased with the results.
The New World Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of The New World boasts an incredibly extensive feature-length documentary (SD, 82 minutes) that delves into Malick's production, the development of the project, casting, location shooting and much, much more. Candid and revealing, this sprawling glimpse behind the scenes is divided into nine engrossing segments: "Making the New World," "Core Training," "Finding Pocahontas," "Recreating the Powhatan," "Along the Chickahominy River," "Jamestown," "Werowocomoco," "The John Rolfe Plantation," "The Battle," and "England." Two theatrical trailers are included as well.
The New World Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The New World isn't the sort of film you watch, it's the sort of living, breathing composition you experience. Malick's vision and pacing isn't for everyone, but it does result in a gorgeous piece of art cinefiles and arthouse enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy. Its Blu-ray release is impressive as well. With a stunning video transfer, a strong TrueHD audio track, and a solid supplemental package, the disc's low price point almost seems too good to be true. Even so, no one in their right mind would complain about getting so much for so little. If The New World sounds like it would appeal to your sensibilities, I would suggest a purchase. If you're still unsure, a rental is certainly in order. Either way, adjust your expectations and prepare to sink into the canvas of a visual maestro.
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The New World Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Warner Announces Ten Catalog Titles for September - May 13, 2009
Warner Home Video has announced ten titles from its catalog for Blu-ray release on September 8: 'Catwoman', 'Creepshow', 'Dead Calm', 'Freddy vs. Jason', 'The New World: Extended Cut', 'Over the Top', 'The Postman', 'Snakes on a Plane', 'Sphere' and 'The ...
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