Director Terrence Malick has never made what one would call “traditional films.” Always relying more on atmosphere and emotion to drive the store rather than plot. And with his latest film, The Tree Of Life, Malick manages to push the boundaries of cinematic storytelling even farther.
At its base level, Tree of Life is the story of an all American family in the 1950s. Specifically it focuses on the rather stern father, Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt), and how he raises his three sons, R.L., Steve and Jack (newcomer Hunter McCracken). In modern day, Jack (Sean Penn) pontificates over his past. However it soon becomes apparent that Malick has more on his mind than the O’Briens when he presents the audience with a twenty-plus minute visually stimulating creation of the universe and Earth including Dinosaurs.
And while some will be left wondering what dinosaurs are doing in this ’50s melodrama, others will take from it what they can and apply these thoughts to the rest of the film as Malick intends.
Almost whimsically wander from the 1950s to present day and back again with asides to the beginning and end of time, The Tree of Life is all over the place, yet at the same time Malick manages to tell an emotionally stirring and concise story.
Brad Pitt and Sean Penn (what little time he has on screen) both deliver fantastic performances but the real star of this film is Hunter McCracken as young Jack. Whether playing with his brothers, arguing with his father or crying in a field, McCracken completely sells the character of Jack making him a full believable character making he relatable to any viewer.
With the strong acting and epically breathtaking cinematography, Terrence Malick pulls his viewers deep into this film and doesn’t let go until the end. Only then can you take a deep breath and begin to ponder all that has been presented to you and you will be thinking about this film long after it’s over.
This film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 Dolby Stereo. This is an extremely beautiful film and on blu-ray and it looks even more amazing. Every single frame of this nearly two and a half hour film could be framed and hung on a wall. The blu-ray suggests watching the film loudly and it sounds amazing as well.
Moving on to the extras, Fox Searchlight has only included one, but it’s a good one.
Exploring The Tree Of Life: (29 min.) This is a great making-of with wonderful interviews with not only the cast and crew, but directors David Fincher and Christopher Nolan as well. And, as per usual, Malick is completely absent from this documentary.
Even if you’ve seen Malick films before and know his style, there really is nothing that will prepare you for the visual and intellectual feats that he has created here. I don’t know what else I can say, other than this is absolutely a must see film and one of the best of the year.
20th Century Fox presents The Tree Of Life. Written and Directed by: Terrence Malick. Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken and Jessica Chastain. Running time: 139 min. Rating: PG-13 for some thematic material. Released on DVD: October 11, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.