Chili Nelson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Malick really is the most special of filmmakers. His movies, at once both indescribably beautiful, rhapsodic and yet emotionally salient, could passingly be described as insistently sincere. Perhaps too much so.
Growing up a fan, I'm not entirely sure my review of Knight Of Cups was ever going to be fair or objective, but why should it be? To me, Terrence exemplifies everything that is wondrous and beautiful about the movies. Visually, his work occupies a space akin to that of Stanley Kubrick, but unlike Kubrick and his inability (post 2001: A Space Odyssey) to write anything approximating human emotion, Malick's real skill lies in his understanding of the soul. What makes us human.
Cups, like all his work after Days Of Heaven, is closer to that of poetry than structural rigidity. Heavy on voice over, prose, and pleas to God, what distinguishes this film from the rest of the director's filmography would be Knight Of Cups geography. Malick's films, while often taking place in small towns or in nature, are substituted here with cityscapes and garish Hollywood parties, all of which are vividly captured by Malick's long-time collaborator, Emmanuel Lubezki. The architecture of the city and its fleshy inhabitants, juxtaposed against the boundless infinity of mother nature, gives Cups a distinctive quality not found in his other work. It may not reach the spiritual highs of The Tree Of Life, or encompass the cosmic thrills of The Thin Red Line, but it does embody the same artistry and scale of his greatest work.
At first glance it must seem like a tired idea (the excess of celebrity), but Malick is much too clever to drink from the same well as many others would (and have). Bale's Rick is a man in crisis, seeking acceptance in the form of relationships with women. This is also mirrored in the cyclical structure of its free form narrative, and the fractured strands of backstory Malick's screenplay offers us. A broken relationship with his father, guilt brought about by an antagonistic brother, an isolated existence, and gratuitous ostentatiousness helps BUILD character as opposed to telling us who he is.
Whether or not you like Knight Of Cups will likely depend, almost entirely, on your appreciation for the type of film Malick makes, but there is no denying his understanding of the medium. And the humanity he graciously offers up time and time again.
You can keep your Christopher Nolan's and Quentin Tarantino's, I have Terrence Malick.