REVIEW: The Tree Of Life

Having being a victim of release delays and distribution issues since filming concluded in late 2008/early 2009, and although it wasn’t released at all cinemas or for a long time when at some cinemas, The Tree Of Life was finally released in May 2011. Due to it’s eerie, surrealistic and experimental elements that are featured within, it could possibly be a new landmark in modern cinema. So for that reason, expectations were exceedingly high. In the past, we have seen motion pictures involving their own theories of life and how it begun, how the universe formed and what the future could be in store for us. The Tree Of Life takes us on many adventures, and perhaps a series of them that we hadn’t experienced in a very long time, if not the first. It beautifully redefines all the beauty and perhaps the uniqueness of nature both on Earth and in the Universe, the innocence, the troubles and the close bonds between human beings and perhaps most importantly, a surrealistic vision of childhood itself. So this is a film that truly could lead you to tears. The magnificent music by Alexandre Desplat was like the icing on the cake, making it the final content in the mixture to make it an almost perfectly produced motion picture.

Nowadays, cinema is becoming something that is now simply just for people to think of cheesy storylines and with overloading computer-generated effects. The Tree Of Life was released during this era that not only once honors similar older films from the past generation; especially 2001: A Space Odyssey due to the eerie music score and to the familiar imagery shots of the universe, but it also shows a whole new side to cinema. This film reveals that cinema is in fact a form of fine art both visually and theoretically, so it has its concepts that are interesting towards admirers of any kind of artist. It also has a profound religious sense, but whether one is religious or not, it doesn’t necessarily matter because the features within the film don’t require anything to do with that or any beliefs.

As there probably was many actors who wanted the leading role in The Tree Of Life, Brad Pitt was the chosen actor to take the honours of being the leading actor as he portrays Mr. O’Brien (he was also one of the producers of the film too). When Brad was in the early stages of his career, he was a heartthrob and now that he has hit the middle age and has taken the leading role in recent Oscar nominated films The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button by David Fincher and Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino, we are now seeing a whole new side to Brad and his acting talents. He has normally played heroic and charming characters, but in all three films as previously mentioned, he begins to act as something extraordinary and perhaps more towards his own age. Mr O’Brien is a well-intentioned father who wants the best for his kids, but at the same time, he is quite abrupt towards them (especially Jack) and rather strict. So that is two new personality types that we see from Brad in a film. Brad rightly deserves an Academy Award nomination for Best Leading Actor, so hopefully he’ll be a strong contender to win like he should be.

Before The Tree Of Life was released, Jessica Chastain was an actress who was hardly a Hollywood actress and one who not that many people were familiar with. However, this is truly her breakthrough film and performance as she portrays Mrs. O’Brien. She expresses the perfect nature of a true mother by wanting the best for her kids, try to make them happy and taking good care of them. Together, Chastain and Pitt act like Adam and Eve so to speak seeing as we are taken into imagery shots of life forms and then a child is born as a follow-up and it is like the generation of human beings have continued.

Although Sean Penn in fact isn’t involved in The Tree Of Life as much as expected, he provides another very special performance. We don’t really see middle-aged Jack speak very often, and we’re just swept into a whole new world alongside him. When we do, we are there with Jack equally feeling the emotions of seeing his family again, and the pride to discover the true meaning of life and the existence of faith, which is what the purpose of the film was in the first place. Penn’s performance perfectly shows that acting isn’t always about words, and he isn’t the first person to pass on this message so brilliantly. Holly Hunter achieved this in 1993 and that her an Academy Award for Best Leading Actress. Sean Penn is perhaps an Oscar worthy contender for Best Supporting Actor.

Hunter McCracken had a lot on his shoulders as he was cast as young Jack, and what we have got from him is definitely the best acting performance from a child star that there has been in quite a while. McCracken worked incredibly well alongside Jessica Chastain as a solid and normal mother-son relationship, but he was even better alongside Brad Pitt due to the love-hate relationship that Jack had with his father. Due to the Academy’s occasionally-biased attitude towards young actors and their performances, McCracken might miss out on being a contender, but he should win the Critics Choice Award for Best Young Actor/Actress.

Terrence Malick, a director who I am familiar with but not a huge admirer of, directs only his fifth feature film in his career (other films include Badlands, Days Of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World) considering he is almost 70 years old. He goes on to make his masterpiece and it could earn him Oscar glory at the upcoming 84th Academy Awards. Being one who disliked his previous film The New WorldThe Tree Of Life has truly made up for that! Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life is Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 and perhaps Disney’s Fantasia which a unique ‘story’, with artistic visual designs and with different concepts of spine-chilling music. You could really tell how dedicated Terrence Malick was to this project seeing as it wasn’t only his fifth film in almost 40 years with a lot of narrative dialogue within the script during scenes in both Texas and imagery scenes of the Universe and of nature on Earth. Although, we don’t see that many casual conversations, Malick writes the script as if it is the imagery footage and the music are telling the story, and that is a very difficult task!

Overall, The Tree Of Life is the latest cinematic landmark and is the biggest breakthrough since Avatar in 2009 (only for it’s effects). The film expresses something very important to the audience; not so much a message, but it’s more like a lesson seeing as it is showing that is how life could have begun and a visual as well as theoretical vision of what the afterlife could be like. No, The Tree Of Life isn’t going to be something that everyone will watch, it will require patience to watch and perhaps won’t be a popular film worldwide like many films nowadays, but in modern cinema and hopefully to the Academy, it makes its mark and achieves something new and makes the audience have a few minutes thoughts afterwards.

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~ by SJMJ91 on 15/05/2012.

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