Reviewed May 15, 2012
Terrence Malick's poetic masterpiece meditates on love, death, careers and the strains and beauty of life during peace and war. The way Malick brilliantly shifts between the many different views, moods and feelings by focusing on a very big group of characters of different ranks and units is very clever, and even though it's a difficult task making a movie flow well with such a big ensemble, this movie does so seamlessly.
We spend a lot of time with these characters, and their respective narrations are unique but interesting in their own way, all being written like beautiful poetry, sometimes concise, but always in a way that gives the viewer much insight. Even the less sympathetic ones are handled with respect, and come out in the end like believable human beings.
The reason why I think the cinematography is better here than in any of his other films (especially Tree of Life and Days of Heaven) is because of the story being so well handled that it blends into the visuals perfectly and the cinematography becomes infinitely more engaging. It's breathtaking at times.
And the editing is amazing. In the more dramatic and intense scenes, there is so much packed into every second that you get a visual treat just by watching the cuts and experiencing the flow of the action combined with the sound design.
During the scene where the Americans finally take control over the hill, my younger brother came into the room and sat down next to me. He asked about what was going on. "The Americans are overrunning the Japanese", I said. He looked closer into what was happening on the screen, turned to me and asked "Isn't this supposed to be a joyous moment?".
"This isn't that kind of war film", I said.