Review: Knights of Cups

Score: B-

Director: Terrence Malick

Cast: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Antonio Banderas

Running Time: 118 Minutes

Rated: R


A Hollywood writer takes in all that Los Angeles and Las Vegas have to offer him as he tries to find love, a sense of self, and a balance of a fractured family through exploits with six different women.


Terrence Malick doesn’t make “simple” films. In fact, you may just leave the theater scratchinig your head wondering what it was you just saw. But one thing you won’t question is the beauty. Knights of Cups is a beautifully shot film.


The acting in this film is top notch and because of the brutal honesty that Terrence gets from his performers and the way the camera is held you feel as though you are right there in the action. And while you feel like a presumed third wheel with absolutely no personal interaction, you just sit and witness the lives of those around you fall apart.


The viewer is left almost to their own devices as you get bits and pieces, but never the whole story. Malick gives you narration and parts of dialogue, but you are left to piece the movie together yourself, which is where many will feel a bit of a let down. Watching this movie you gather certain things, but then feel the need to rush home to see if you were correct. Knights of Cups is an old school art house film that you are either going to love or you are going to hate – there is simply no in-between.


Christian Bale, as Rick, does a fantastic job of being your Sherpa. He brings you along and lets you get inside his head for a brief moment. Antonio Banderas is flawless as, well I not entirely sure to be honest…a producer, maybe? Cate Blanchet and Natalie Portman bring such depth to the film that you feel their anguish and pain. They are both women who love Rick, but can never be with him because he is searching for something that even he isn’t sure actually exists, his heart. And this was all done with none of the actors knowing what was going on. Bale himself has said that none of the actors were told exactly what the film was about. They were given pages of dialogue to say and various options to pick and choose from. Just like the audience, they too were required to piece things together.


While the acting is raw and visceral, the fact that you don’t have a solid plot or story line to really follow ends up hurting the film more than helping it. As I’ve previously stated, saying Antonio Banderas was a producer is a guess at best because there’s never anything to indicate just what he was. This mystery is intriguing, but when answers aren’t ever offered up, it can become quite frustrating as your focus begins to wander.


While the plot was a labyrinth of a maze to follow, the writing was spot on. That is to say, when it did have dialogue. Malick made up must of the film’s talking points as he went along, taking almost four years to complete. But somehow the notoriously independent director has achieved great things as his word choices make you think about your own relationship, ponder your own life and, at times, laugh out loud as you wonder just who says such ridiculous things.


Understand that the viewer has to be in the right frame of mind to watch a film like Knights of Cups. It isn’t a casual choice, but for those daring enough to experience it, you can rest assured that you will most definitely leave with an opinion as to its greatness.


About Robert Bexar II

Robert Bexar II

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