Knight of Cups Blu-ray review
Rick lives in Hollywood as a screenwriter. On any given day or night, he’ll be cruising down the street in his convertible or partying on a rooftop lounge. It’s a life of money and glamour, of women and drink. But it all ends by morning and then Rick is alone.
Rick (Christian Bale, in his second pairing with Terrence Malick, more than a decade after playing John Rolfe in THE NEW WORLD) can have anything he wants and so he gets anything he wants. Still, his life within the palm trees is hollow. He wonders, “Where did I go wrong?” And then, in eight chapters, he allows himself to explore the answer to that question.
He has affairs with a free-spirit (Imogen Poots, SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY), a model (Freida Pinto), a stripper (Teresa Palmer, KILL ME THREE TIMES) and a stranger (Natalie Portman, THOR: THE DARK WORLD). He struggles to bond with his brother (Wes Bentley, FINAL GIRL) and his father (Brian Dennehy, THE BIG YEAR). He isolates his wife (Cate Blanchett, CAROL). He wastes time with a wealthy player (Antonio Banderas, THE EXPENDABLES 3).
Where did Rick go wrong? This could be discussed and analyzed, sure, but it almost doesn’t seem worth it. That’s not because the film is so deep that it transcends the central question. It’s because the film is so empty. And as much as the screenplay tries to be deeply philosophical, it all comes off so phony (“All those years, living the life of someone I didn’t even know…”), with at least some of the blame going to the voiceovers, delivered in hushes as if the studio was paying by the decibel.
This is all part of Terrence Malick’s trademarks, which were much more subtle up until his latest phase began. Since 2011’s THE TREE OF LIFE, Malick has made his films all look and sound more or less the same. Obviously there is much difference in the landscapes of Hollywood (KNIGHT OF CUPS), Oklahoma (TO THE WONDER) and Texas (THE TREE OF LIFE), but Malick has employed shoe-level handheld shots, images of people standing in fields/by the ocean and sporadically topsy-turvy camerawork almost relentlessly to depict these worlds.
Each of Malick’s films is gorgeous (he has worked exclusively with Emmanuel Lubezki since 2005’s THE NEW WORLD), a point hard to deny by even his most disdainful haters. KNIGHT OF CUPS is no exception. But the film would work better and have more shape without the distractions and possibly on mute, allowing the characters to somehow be more interesting.
It might be unjust to tack blame on Terrence Malick for making a Terrence Malick film. But it is fair to be disappointed that he’s switched to autopilot. His best film of this latest phase (and one of his greatest overall), the mesmerizingly beautiful THE TREE OF LIFE, was a quiet wave of genius. His latest dives headfirst into the shallow end.
Video: 2.35:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. It should be no surprise that this high-definition presentation is a stunning one, adding further dimension and life to Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography. Additionally, textures are nice, colors are strong and locations are wonderfully detailed.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The balance between dialogue, voiceover and effects is excellent, fully supporting Malick’s intentions.
The Making of KNIGHT OF CUPS (16:02): Several cast members (including Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Antonio Banderas, Imogen Poots and more), discuss working with Terrence Malick, the unconventional style of the film, improvisation and more. Included are clips and on-set footage.