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With: Colin Farrell, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer, Ben Chaplin, Jonathan Pryce, Wes Studi, Noah Taylor, David Thewlis, Irene Bedard, Eddie Marsan
Written by: Terrence Malick
Directed by: Terrence Malick
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 172
Date: 10/14/2008

The New World: The Extended Cut (2008)

4 Stars (out of 4)

More Masterpiece

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In December of 2005, I saw the 150-minute cut of The New World, which was screened for my critics group for awards consideration. The film as a whole didn't quite sink in until I saw the 135-minute cut a month or so later. I'm not sure if the shorter cut played better for me, or if it took a second viewing to cement the idea that this was a true masterpiece. Now New Line has released an "extended cut," running 172 minutes. My guess is that this new cut has nothing to do with director Terrence Malick. For one thing, it's specifically called an "extended cut," and not a "director's cut." And there's no information on the disc or anywhere else explaining how this cut came about. Malick is secretive and reclusive, but I'm sure that if this were his director's cut, it would be called the director's cut.

The 172-minute cut plays with more thought toward narrative, with lots more explanation and more narration. Q'orianka Kilcher has more screen time, and her astonishing performance seems more fully rounded. (I look forward to what she does next, but even if she does nothing, she'll have this one extraordinary moment, much like Maria Falconetti's great, single performance in The Passion of Joan of Arc.) Just about every sequence plays a bit longer, with more literal detail in place. We also get title cards, dividing the movie into "chapters." We see more of Christopher Plummer and his plans for the new colony, more details of John Smith and his "imprisonment" in Pocahontas' camp, and more details of the courtship between "Rebecca" (Pocahontas's Anglo name) and John Rolfe (Christian Bale). Pocahontas swims nude during the opening moments (though it's probably a body double since we never see her face and since Kilcher was only 14 at the time).

I have a soft spot for the shortest version, which merely suggests the story and plays more like a poem or a dream, but I suspect that this, more literal, narrative version would have done better business and picked up more awards had it been released in theaters. But even in this long version, the images are still startling and beautiful, very definitely crafted with Malick's signature style, and it's still a masterpiece. All that's left is for some kind of clue as to which version, if any, is Malick's "final cut."

DVD Details: The disc contains no extras except for a "digital copy," and various optional audio and subtitle options.

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