This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Caleb’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Cinema means different things to everyone. For the many, it means that they're transported into the film itself, and it tells a story, usually with a three act structure. For me, I'm pretty versatile when it comes to films. I've watched many a film, ranging from utter terrible to a masterpiece. To me, Barry Lyndon is the high art cinema. It's accompanied with incredible, one of a kind cinematography. Every frame, every shot, could be a painting. While I've seen films with fantastic cinematography, this stands out above all. The lightning does it. Kubrick wanted the film to have the most natural lightning as possible, and even that meant scenes filmed with pure candlelight lightning. This way, the film and Kubrick was able to COMPLETELY transport me into the film. Clocking in at 185 minutes, I've never seen a more immersive film. Sure, the takes were long, some scenes were longer than they needed to be, but it never took me out of the film. The technical aspects of this film needs to be recognized more. I'm aware it won 4 Oscars, but this is a movie not mentioned often when bringing up Kubrick. I've yet to seen 2001, Lolita and Eyes Wide Shut, but so far, I can easily put Barry Lyndon at his number one. For me, the entire film is composed of fantastic scene after fantastic scene. The memorable scenes are particularly Barry's involvement in the Seven Years' War, and the final duel between Barry and Lord Bullingdon.
Now, onto the acting/storytelling aspect. This is the most interesting part, because Ryan O'Neil's performance caused divisiveness amongst those who have watched this picture. I've had a night to think about his performance, and I can say it was extraordinary. See, we're not led to believe Redmond Barry is an extraordinary man of extraordinary means, but rather that of a simpleton who simply sought escape after escape. To me, Barry is the cold, detached version of Forrest Gump. Forgive me if I've compared one of the most popular characters ever to a simpleton from Ireland. I think it's apt because Barry happens upon fortunes after fortunes, although it wasn't all that great. But O'Neil's moment(s) comes when he has a son, Bryan. The scenes between them are tender, real, and fatherly. For once, Barry finally had purpose, and it was Bryan. But Barry has a stepson from his wife's previous marriage, Bullingdon. It is when a rivalry is formed, and Bullingdon sees for what Barry is. The final duel between Barry and Lord Bullingdon is one of the most memorable scenes I'll ever see, and you'll have to chew through approximately 160 minutes to get to that point. The acting of Leon Vitali and O'Neil are incredible here. It's a bit funny as well, but maintains the seriousness as well.
At the film's end, now that I had thought about it for a night, it was such a simple story of a simpleton's rise and fall, but it had fantastic music along with masterful cinematography. Kubrick made the movie work with all of these, and the film's frames may as well turn into paintings in my head. A masterpiece from the master himself.