A masterpiece, this fifth feature by Terrence Malick manages to reconcile the emotional force of his 70s classics, Badlands
and Days of Heaven
, with the epic naturalism of his more recent comeback films, The Thin Red Line
(1998) and The New World
(2005). Brad Pitt gives an impressively sober, tight-lipped performance as the rigid 1950s patriarch of a little family in Waco, Texas, a decent but angry man whose strict treatment of his three young sons is countered by the love and Christian grace of his ethereal wife (Jessica Chastain). Interspersed with this humble family conflict are scenes of the world's creation that Malick concocted with the legendary special effects artist Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey
). These audacious sequences can't help but evoke the metaphysical questing of 2001
, and in fact The Tree of Life
often feels like a religious response to Stanley Kubrick's cold, cerebral view of our place in the universe. Not to be missed.