Certified Classics: Terrence Malick Two-Pack

I have been on a big Terrence Malick kick lately.  I don’t know what took me so long, but I hadn’t seen any of his movies until recently.  He is a one of a kind filmmaker, and his work represents cinema in its most premium form.  You can read my thoughts on his 1998 masterpiece, The Thin Red Line here.  Here are a couple more of his films.  I still haven’t seen his most recent film, The New World, but that is at the top of my “to do list” for this week.

Badlands (1973)

With Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek and Warren Oates.

Badlands is the true story of a 1950’s string of murders and the young on-the-run couple responsible for them.  Martin Sheen is a good-looking garbage man who falls for a young, naïve girl, played by Sissy Spacek.  He’s quite trigger happy, and soon the couple finds themselves hiding out in the woods and running from both bounty hunters and police officers.  Sheen’s performance as the mentally unstable, yet smooth talking Kit ranks with his turn in Apocalypse Now as one of his finest works.  The film is incredibly violent and graphic for its time and features one of the best car chases that I’ve ever seen.  Badlands hints at some of Malick’s trademarks, such as mankind’s connection with nature and thought-provoking voice-overs, but they aren’t developed as profoundly as they are in his later works.  All in all, it is still a fantastic début.

Rating: 8/10

RIYL: Natural Born Killers, Kalifornia, True Romance, Bonnie and Clyde.

Days of Heaven (1978)

With Richard Gere, Brooke Adams and Sam Shepard

Days of Heaven is the classic story of a love triangle.  Richard Gere and Brooke Adams are young lovers that travel around the country together in search of work, but they tell everyone that they are brother and sister.  One day they begin working on a farm.  Gere’s character eavesdrops on a conversation revealing that the farmer (Sam Shepard) has only a year left to live.  Gere tells Adams to pursue the farmer, and coerce him into marrying her.  This way, when he dies, they will inherit his land and all their financial struggles will come to a halt.  I’m not going to spoil the rest of the movie, but it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.  The movie is only about 90 minutes long, but the scope and sprawling feel of the film bring to mind monumental epics like Reds and The Godfather.  The jealousy, suspicion and manipulation are amplified by Malick’s signature imagery that makes every intricacy seem like a major plot development.

Rating: 9/10

RIYL: Legends of the Fall, Lolita, Night of the Hunter.


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