Those of you willing to step outside of the normal thematic boundaries and accept Terrence Malick‘s unorthodox way of telling a universal story will find much enjoyment in The Tree of Life. It’s not your ordinary film with a solid focus on one narrative, it instead chooses to have a non-linear narrative that spans over a wide spread of time.
from the beginning of the cosmos, to the rise of the dinosaurs and lastly to a small town in Texas during the 1950′s, The Tree of Life has no limits in what it’s trying to achieve. Those looking for a simple film might be discouraged, but I still strongly recommend this title to almost anyone who is willing to give something new a chance.
Jack (Hunter McCracken) is a young boy growing up in a small town in Texas. His dad, Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt) is a tough father who missed his shot at the American dream, a man who lost focus of his goals in life and became an inventor who can barely sell anything. He’s a good man who loves his children, but he doesn’t really know how to initially express it. Jack’s mother, Mrs. O’Brien (Jessica Chastain) is a loving mother that only chooses to see the good in everything. She’s peaceful and innocent in a world filled with sharks. The Tree of Life at one point is Jack’s story of growing up and losing his innocence.
The film also intertwines scenes from a much earlier time, the forming of the universe and the forming of our very own planet. The imagery isn’t solely done with computer animation, it also uses different water color techniques to help give it a certain glow and grand spectacle. Classical music accompanies these breathtaking shots of imagery as we begin to feel really small. Ending off with the formation of living creatures and the inevitable extinction of the dinosaurs, The Tree of Life slowly reaches new heights.
Going back to a more present time we are greeted with a much older Jack (Sean Penn) who is lost in the world and struggling to find a purpose to this whole mess. He’s lost contact with his parents after the loss of his brother and he barely registers as a living person. This is where the film lost a few viewers, due to Malick’s quick cuts and dream like montages of numerous moments of beautiful images and grim death.
The ending is full of depth and meaning, but what truly works in The Tree of Life is how one can interpret it. You can spend days picking apart each frame, defining its exact intentions or you can simply call it at face value. No one is wrong here because The Tree of Life isn’t set to accomplish one goal. Many people will find comfort in watching this film, whether you’re a believer in god or not. It talks to all walks of life and it evokes a wide spread of emotional responses from each and every person.
Only a master craftsman like Terrence Malick could do this. His impressive camerawork is always a sight and his use of voice overs and music help The Tree of Life calmly set in. I wouldn’t call The Tree of Life a movie; I’d call it an experience that everyone should try at least once. Some might find it pretentious and boring, but others will claim it to be bold and innovative filmmaking. I side with the latter.
Fox really has outdone themselves with the 1080p transfer for The Tree of Life. I know the words reference quality get thrown around a lot these days, but The Tree of Life is honestly one of the best looking discs, ever. Malick is without a doubt a very visual director and each and every frame in this film is a work of art. Everything is very sharp and clear. Bright colors pop like never before and dark colors get lost into the black space. Skin textures and tones are very lifelike with no image banding or compression problems spotted.
The Tree of Life is also a very audio aware film. Simple background effects are always taking up the channels. Things like leaves on a sidewalk, kids running through grass and even crickets chirping really help bring the 7.1 DTS-HD audio track to life. I’ve never heard so many levels of detail before on a Blu-Ray disc until now. This is one of the best audio tracks I have ever heard.
One thing the film lacks is special features. The film only comes with two.
- Exploring The Tree of Life (HD): A behind the scenes in depth look at the film with interviews from various actors, producers and the music composer. Terrence Malick is nowhere to be seen, which is a bummer, but was totally expected.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD): One of the better cut trailers in recent memory. I could watch this thing over and over.
- DVD Copy
- Digital Copy
I can see The Tree of Life easily winning best Blu-Ray disc of 2011 if not best Blu-Ray disc of all time. The video and audio are pristine, rich and full of flawless detail. It’s a shame that there aren’t that many special features to offer, but at least there interesting. The behind the scenes footage is informative and worth the watch and the trailer is really well cut together. The bundle also includes a DVD and digital copy, which means you can show it off to all your friends where ever you go. I can’t imagine not watching this film on Blu-Ray though.
The film itself isn’t for everyone, but those that do discover it and enjoy it will really find something special. It’s Malick’s most ambitious piece of work yet and a high note for cinema in general, but I don’t see most couples enjoying this as a Friday night rental. Cautiously rent this one if you’re not familiar with Malick or his work. If you do appreciate Malick then by all means buy this without hesitation. This is what Blu-Ray is all about!