Ty Landis’s review published on Letterboxd:
Wanted to distance myself greatly from this before giving it a second look, and it paid off immensely. Admittedly, my first viewing was on my laptop (also did this with To the Wonder, which did it no favors, and I vow to never do it again with a Malick first viewing) where I was taken with a bunch of images but remained increasingly isolated from the whole. Bale's "Crying Jordan" protagonist felt far removed from me in the same way that Affleck's worn stoicism turned me cold in To the Wonder. Affleck is purposefully distant, but watching this again, something clicked in Bale's performance which opened up the film for me; he nails his inherent disorientation from the world, it's supposed to play as emotionally elusive.
It's impossible to redeem and justify a life without searching, without listening, hearing, or feeling for the physical, the real. Malick's tour through L.A. presents a world of reflections and glass, a societal infrastructure now occupied by facades and trickery. Ascending airplanes, noisy helicopters, shaken concrete, a world torn apart by fragmentation and chaotic glitz. An unknown journey that slowly starts to resemble a blessing. There's so such thing as forever, only the grief and stagnation of the present, of the unreal, weighing us down.
Originally found common banality in each of the passages. Now, only the comfort of the unknown and the brief attractiveness found in a glowing parking deck seen from across the street -- a shot that is memorably striking yet also somehow disposable. Can't seem to align myself with those who say Malick fetishizes the poor when we get something like Imogen Poots placing a flower at the foot of a bum sleeping on a bench, or Rick's concentrated eyes as he stands among the poor with such humbleness and curiosity. The film's rich philosphy dwarfs even its pronounced shortcomings: Wes Bentley is hard to stomach here, some of Dennehy's lines ("ahh, life...") are horrid, and the general beach/desert meanderings still prove partially taxing but less so this time and I expect them to diminish upon further viewings.
Mostly, I'm smitten by what I've discovered and what I've let bother me less. Perhaps too autobiographical on first glance to really crack into, it's that repetitive burrowing and grappling with a lost world that finally found me. But there's an immaculately humane world, still out of reach, awaiting its own seeker.