Alex Fuller’s review published on Letterboxd:
Los Angeles gets the Terrence Malick treatment, and it's wonderful. The way he shoots architecture is especially ravishing, and there are a lot of exquisite panoramic images of various aspects of the city, though often not held long enough for my liking - I wasn't always on board with the fairly rapid cutting style, wishing on occasion for a more languorous approach to the shot length to match the movie's unhurried pace. Although, that pace is perhaps illusory anyway. A lot of time and different relationships were covered, or touched upon, in the film's 118 minutes. Nevertheless, certainly a very beautiful film to look at. I would like him to set his next film in London, so my city can get the Malickian going-over!
I found it pleasing how alien he makes the world seem at times. I like that feeling of looking, of searching - the roving camera feels restless in an inspiring way, rather than an annoying, affected one (as it did to me with Lubezki's work in The Revenant, for example).
This film put me a little in mind of The Great Beauty, in its depiction of a man wandering about a city, filled with reflective ennui. But Malick's film is far lower key, right down to the score, which I only ever registered a few times, and then very subtly.
I wonder about Malick's thinking about women. There are a lot of them in Knight of Cups, and they spend most of the film twirling about in front of the camera as it (and Bale) slowly pursues them, simultaneously curious and disengaged. It's not troubling really, but it is two-dimensional and strangely repetitive. It's exactly the same thing that Malick had Olga Kurylenko do so beautifully in To The Wonder, but now it's not so new, and it felt like Malick repeating himself in terms of that particular visual trope - and I in turn found that sense of repetition slightly distracting. And I don't know if the slight feeling of Malick going over old ground is a big factor, but on the whole this was not as affecting an experience as To The Wonder, which I dwelt on for a long time after, and still think about from time to time now (I've yet to re-visit it). I'm not sure the same will be true of this film.
There are no performances, really. Bale never looked like he knew what he was doing, and I believe he has confirmed that as much was true - Malick just never told him. Which is perfectly fine, that's just Malick's particular approach to making a film and his results mostly speak for themselves, although hiring Christian Bale to wander about blankly is a bit like getting a Ferrari for the school run. I'm pretty sure I could have played Rick just as well. In fact there are so many recognisable names and faces in this film that there were several pretty well known actors apparently in there somewhere that I totally failed to clock until the credits crawl. But it wasn't very distracting, and I suppose kind of fits with the movie business setting.
After an interminable, unreasonably long wait for the film, I suppose it was always going to be worth it, and it was. I'm not sure that I consistently engaged with it on anything deeper than an aesthetic level, but that alone was enough for a couple of hours to pass very pleasurably and very quickly. And it's just nice to know from the outset that you're in the hands of a filmmaker with a unique vision, somebody who makes films unlike anybody else. It would have been nice to have felt more deeply touched too, but there you are. Maybe emotionally it will be a sinker. I'd watch it again either way.