Oblivion. If you have seen and enjoyed a science fiction movie, you will probably find something to like here, where they’re all mixed and mashed into a movie that’s far from perfect, but more than good enough. Easy to find plotlines and moods from movies like Moon, Solaris, the new Solaris, 2001, The Matrix, WALL·E, Star Wars, Star Trek. (I particularly like the space-captain-retiring-to-California parallels with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: Generations). I would have been okay with more time exploring the love/memory/identity stuff and less generic action, but no biggie. Outside of the plot, a few areas I was impressed by: camerawork with a smart sense of space and geography; world/technology design and general gorgeousness; and a good soundtrack by M83, et al.
To the Wonder. This is probably a Malick-fans-only affair, given that he’s brought all his Malickisms to expected highs/belabored lows. So I liked it, naturally. It’s very chopped and fragmented, both within scenes and through time, but there is a clear arc here. Yet maybe it’s understated enough that you get as much drama out of it as you put in. The thing starts with Kurylenko’s narration, her camera, her self-documentation, so there’s an interpretation that most of it is her record. Regardless, just that little bit of self-shot camerawork helps to set up the interiority of the rest.
Affleck is given almost nothing to say, and he’s muted repeatedly even when it looks like he’s saying something. And the voices we can hear from other characters, it’s often just barely. The dance analogy I’ve heard fits well. Where words are absent, gesture and music have to carry it. It’s also like, y’know… silent film. Great score, though you too may chuckle if you’re familiar with some of the music selected (e.g. Górecki, Rachmaninov, Wagner).
Ridiculous desktop wallpaper camera porn abounds. Malick needs to sell his b-roll for the TVs in waiting rooms and airports. I love the transition from the water shot of coastal France to the tall grass in the States. And another transition from the sunlit exteriors of the U.S. to the damp claustrophobic fluorescence of Paris at night. And that final shot. Man. That made it all worth it for me.
Themes. Taking it back to the early sequence at Mont Saint-Michel shows the two becoming one, a little island drawing off from the rest. And the first early versions of how the camera is drawn, again and again, to light, tracking toward windows and doors, trying to get up and out. So that’s love as a combinatory force, bringing two into one, making the inside the outside, drawing you out of yourself (note the barely furnished home). So there’s love as awesome, and there’s love as absent. Bardem carries this part. Note how he’s sequestered himself inside too much. By the end, maybe he’s trying a little harder. Or praying at least, girding himself to get out there again, narrating a common excerpt from St. Patrick’s Breastplate:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
My Terrence Malick rankings and reviews: