thelistislife42’s review published on Letterboxd:
My second watch.
Finally watched my Criterion DVD so that's cool.
Between an 8 and a 9. Great movie but not my favorite Malick anymore. I think most of the battle scenes are very tense and engaging, and most of the quiet, poetic stuff is beautiful. The visuals, editing, and use of music are all just magnificent throughout.
But I also think some of the standard '90s drama stuff doesn't quite mesh with the existential, experiential moments that Malick is most known for. A perfect example is Nick Nolte's character and performance, which feels dull and clichéd, especially compared to what Malick is doing visually with the beauty of the natural scenery and the wandering camerawork. These characters are pretty one-note (though mostly way more interesting or subtle than Nolte) so the emotion didn't quite land as perfectly by the end as it did for me when I first saw it. I think that part of this for me is that the narration and memories (of Jack's wife specifically) feel like flatter versions of The Tree of Life, but they still end up accomplishing what they need to.
There's so much real tension and genuine beauty throughout this film and I still really adore it. (There are shots and sequences in here, especially when paired with the score, that are just beyond stunning - emotive tapestries of human movement and natural elements.) But I also think there's a bit of a sense of inconsistency and simplicity when compared to some of Malick's other work. Ugh, love the film but feel kinda weird.