Tree of Life
first let me say i love that a movie like this is getting a wide release.
Now that that's out of the way, this is a very redundant movie from Mallick. Yes it is beautiful, yes it looks great... but there were very seldom moments of pure cinema in it that really provoked me in any significant way.
His voice over's are white noise. They've always been white noise, a failed attempt at connective tissue to his images. They are interchangeable from film to film. If you took just about any voice over sentence from a Mallick movie and asked even the most enduring Mallick acolyte what movie it is from they wouldn't be able to tell you. I really thought he would have been better without them all together this time out.
When cinema is at its best, it can provoke beyond the simple image on screen. Mallick doesn't utilize cinema the way it has the power to be utilized, he is trying to provoke on images alone. In context to focus (not even structure, just focus) then images have the power to resonate in a profound cinematic
way, but he never achieves anything beyond the images.
Every scene is paced the same. You get no more than two minutes of a moment with the family, then some white noise narration, then some b-roll of beautiful images. For some, they might say there is a lot of risk here, from the "dawn of man" type moments to the "star child" type moments, it is a daring achievement. Unfortunately for me, I found this to a be a safe movie. Maybe it is because I attended a film program in an art school where i continuously saw indecisive student filmmakers who have a lot to say but instead of focusing on anything they clumsily collect images together and pray that they've made something profound. The best thing Mallick has going for him is that he is reclusive, which gives him the benefit in the film community of being some kind of genius, as opposed to an indecisive filmmaker who hopes that an audience can discover something profound in the familiar weaving of his opera.
I don't hate this movie. I still think it is worth watching, the same way I think it is worth watching a passionate freshman's video piece in an art school. At least this one has a budget.