CinemaClown’s review published on Letterboxd :
Director Terrence Malick's feature film debut is a beautifully shot, elegantly crafted & fluidly narrated crime drama that wonderfully exhibits his cinematic eye for detail & breathtaking imagery and also happens to be his most accessible film to date.
Having gained a significant cult following over the years, this classic has a lot in store for both fans & detractors of this filmmaker, as the former will find an early glimpse of Malick's blossoming talent while latter will be pleased with the absence of those rambling philosophical voice-overs.
Loosely based on the real-life murder spree of Charles Starkweather & his adolescent girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate in 1958, Badlands tells the story of Holly Sargis; a young teen who falls for an older rugged guy named Kit with whom she elopes after he kills her father who was against their relationship.
The film is narrated by Holly in which she describes her romantic adventures with Kit which continues to clash with his increasingly violent behaviour from start to finish and also covers Holly's dreams of having something more than just running away from law all the time which ultimately leads to their downfall.
Brilliantly directed by Malick, his first attempt at filmmaking hits all the right notes to come out as an exciting debut that unfolds its events with remarkable simplicity & yet there is a certain quality about it. Cinematography offers moments of pure bliss with some stunning imagery, editing presents a controlled pace & music has its little moments too.
Coming to the performances, this was Martin Sheen's feature debut at which he does a fabulous job plus his screen presence is instantly gripping. Sissy Spacek as Holly also impresses greatly both as a narrator & a character and the best part about these two characters is that despite their remorseless killing spree, we do grow to care about their relationship.
On an overall scale, Badlands is one of the strongest first features for any director in cinema which manages to find a fine balance between its elements to come out as a period drama that has & will continue to endure the test of time. It has so many moments that aren't even related to the plot yet without those moments, this film wouldn't feel the same or better in any way.
Exquisitely crafted, skilfully captured & showing a quality level of stability despite being a first attempt at filmmaking, Badlands is a must for every cinema lover out there whether they're admirers of Malick or not and is one of the finest gems to come out from the glorious decade of cinema; the 1970s. Highly recommended.