Michael Cox’s review published on Letterboxd:
"This great evil. Where does it come from? How'd it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who's doin' this? Who's killin' us? Robbing us of life and light. Mockin' us with the sight of what we might've known. Does our ruin benefit the earth? Does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night?" - Private Edward P. Train
Check out my "Movies LONG AF ranking" here
I am currently on a Terrence Malick binge. If you want to see what I've watched so far, his filmography is ranked here.
*Long review ahead*
Got dang, what a film. We really do be moving into Malick's ethereal phase, ain't we? It's like being transported into another world. The whole film feels elevated from his previous projects. It feels a whole lot more concise and focused narratively speaking, and more grandiose and epic in scale thanks to the score and cinematography.
The most interesting part about this film is the way nature is used. It's both indifferent and enemies of our cast. The fact that for the first half of the film, we never see the enemy, only gunfire and the outlines of their bodies with the environment covering them, emphasizing that message is intriguing. Fog shrouds their vision, the forest hinders their mobility and a moving stream sweeps away an immobile body. Then you have vultures flying around corpses, bats curiously dangling above, and snakes breaking up firefights. It's fascinating stuff.
The film has excellent direction, sweeping cinematography, and the best shot battle scenes I've seen since Macbeth (2015). The cinematography is also magnifique. The editing is skillfully used to play up the chaos of battle and the score, masterfully composed by Hans Zimmer, is powerful and aids some scenes that are just an emotional gut-punch.
You know, Malick has that one really powerful scene in every one of his films that makes you feel emotions that you never thought you would have? This time it was during this raid on a camp. Man, the tears were everywhere, dude.
The script also feels more focused and allows for the narration to make more sense and make highlights the poetic and philosophical nature of it all.
The cast is stacked to the brim with talent as it one of the best ensembles I've seen in a while. Adrien Brody (Cpl. Geoffrey Fife), Jim Caviezel (Pvt. Robert Witt), Ben Chaplin (Pvt. Jack Bell), John Cusack (Cpl. John Gaff), Woody Harrelson (Sgt. William Keck), Kirk Acevado (Pvt. Alfredo Tella), John C. Reilly (Sgt. Maynard Storm), Jared Leto (2nd Lt. William Whyte) and Tim Blake Nelson (Pvt. Brian Tills) all did excellent jobs. The real two standouts for me were Nick Nolte (Lt. Col. Gordon Tall) and Elias Koteas (Capt. James "Bugger" Staros). Their interactions were great and the latter really impressed me.
I have some slight problems with the film is that it kind of wanders at the end. I don't really like Sean Penn (1 Sgt. Edward Welsh) so he was fine here and John Travolta (Brig. Gen. David Quintard) was the only one who felt like they were acting here. Maybe it's his voice, IDK.
This was an excellent film. It is a required watch if you love war films and a highly recommended one if you love film, in general.