Wesley R. Ball’s review published on Letterboxd:
What kind of world do we live in where Christopher Nolan is hailed as one of the most original and visionary directors of the 21st century and Terrence Malick is labeled a boring hack who doesn't know how to make a great film? I mean, I really like some Nolan films, but Inception is just a live action Paprika and Interstellar is a 2001 homage with (to me) terribly written dialogue. Now again, I'm not saying his films are bad at all. But, man, look at what Terrence Malick has done here!
Knight of Cups is some of Malick's finest work since The Tree of Life. Nobody knows how to perfectly capture the beauty of life and nature like Terrence Malick, and here, he provides a gorgeous, long and hard look at life itself. He delves into some of the vapid life of excess that Hollywood has to offer, the void those living its lifestyle can receive, and ultimately, one man's path to a better future. Utilizing the same narrative form found in The Tree of Life and To the Wonder, Malick shows that he can tell the most basic life story in the most profound of ways. His camera lingers as a casual observer, simply existing to captivate the progressive journey that Christian Bale's character takes. The film is divided into a prologue and several chapters, each chapter personifying another part of his journey. It's actually a great update on Pilgrim's Progress, a book I was forced to read in elementary school (pretty good read, if you ask me). I loved the way Malick incorporated each hallmark of the Pilgrim's journey into the story, making necessary changes to bring the tale into the 21st century. In the end, it's a beautifully complex moral tale of the vanity of the things of Earth, and how we are meant to strive for something greater beyond this life.
It pains me to no end how much the critics are tearing this film apart. It's a shame that audiences can't look past the ambiguous and enigmatic storytelling to try to decipher it for themselves. That's one of the biggest problems with The Witch and modern audiences. A lack of a straight narrative or intensity will lose the average viewer (or the avid Malick non-believer). This film is almost certainly going to be maligned to no end when it's released to audiences next month, but my support of Malick's cinematic endeavors will not be broken. Perhaps his narrative is more wandering and vague than most other people, but the tale of the Pilgrim's Progress almost demands this style of narrative to be considered unique or original. The absolutely genuine creativity of Terrence Malick is on full display here, and I believe that he deserves some deep consideration before being tossed aside as another form of pretension.