It’s near impossible to watch a Terence Malick film and not get swept away in the man’s fascination with nature. His films, lyrical and delicate, are imbued with childlike wonder, as likely to focus on a flock of birds overhead as the details of the plot machinations motivating his characters. He can evoke nature’s beauty with unmatched talent.
This doesn’t typically make for the most accessible films: a notable exception is his confident debut, Badlands. The film, which follows the story of a young couple (Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen) whose dreamy inarticulateness goes hand-in-hand with a predilection for barely-motivated murder, is certainly the most traditional of his oeuvre, with a relatively straightforward narrative; more a well-written novel than a longform poem. Malick directs the same, slightly quizzical stare towards the couple as he does nature, regarding the pair with a curious interest. There’s little attempt to explain their actions; that’s not Badlands’ goal.
The film is gorgeous, naturally, even if it doesn’t reach the captivating heights of The New World or The Tree of Life. The real highlight here is Sheen’s performance; fitting the easy, sinister charisma of the role, he never feels like he’s acting; he just is.