Captain John Smith's romance with Native American hottie Pocahontas is usually seen as a great American myth, but the story is based on fact. For director Terrence Malick, The New World offers a chance to explore his familiar theme of man versus nature. Colin Farrell's brooding conquistador gets steamy in the bullrushes with Q'Orianka Kilcher's Pocahontas, while his fellow settlers wage war with the locals for land. As ever with Malick, beautiful imagery and moribund pacing go hand in hand.
You would be hard pressed to find a film with a more authentic sense of period than The New World. From the moment the pilgrims arrive on the American shore, with Farrell locked in the ship's hold for some ill-explained crime, it feels as if you have stepped back in time, to another rhythm and another way of thinking. Like Malick's last movie, The Thin Red Line, the action is liberally mixed with static shots of nature; babbling brooks, windswept grass and so on. The editing of these images is so strange - seductive and elliptic, and completely unlike the grammar of everyday movies - that it feels like listening to poetry in another language.
So, it's lovely to look at, but there are problems. Malick's love of portentous voiceovers often leaves his actors stranded, the politics are simplistic, and poor old Pokey has a tough time trying to represent the spirit of nature by pouting winsomely and flashing her bambi thighs. But these are hard-eyed criticisms, and The New World is a film to which you have to surrender to enjoy.