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Christian Bale and Natalie Portman at the beach in Knight of

Christian Bale Prowls L.A. in Terrence Malick's Wildly Boring 'Knight of Cups'

JamesArthurArmstrong JamesArthurArmstrong Christian Bale (The Big Short), Cate Blanchett (Carol) and Natalie Portman (Black Swan) are just a few of the big name stars that crop up in Terrence Malick's latest arthouse offering.

It is hard to believe that this is only Malick seventh feature length release, given his name attracts marquis stars. Looking past the aforementioned talent, Knight of Cups is jammed packed with other big names both in front and behind the camera. Current Oscar-winner Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant) controls the imagery and we're certainly given a splendour to behold. From breathtaking landscape scenery (a Lubezki trademark of sorts) to exquisitely captured cityscapes, Knight of Cups is a marvel of cinematography. It's just a shame that nothing remotely interesting or equally spectacular happens throughout its two-hour run-time.

Knight of Cups follows writer Rick (Bale) on an odyssey through playgrounds of Los Angeles and Las Vegas as he undertakes a search for love and self. Even as he moves through a landscape of mansions, resorts, beaches and clubs, Rick grapples with complicated relationships with his brother (Wes Bentley) and father (Brian Dennehy). His quest to break the spell of disenchantment takes him on a series of adventures with six alluring women: rebellious Della (Imogen Poots), physician ex-wife Nancy (Blanchett), serene model Helen (Freida Pinto), wronged woman Elizabeth (Portman), playful stripper Karen (Teresa Palmer) and innocent Isabel (isabel Lucas), who helps him see a way forward.

Christian Bale in Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups
Christian Bale in Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups


There is no doubting Malick is a huge magnet for acting talent. His filmography speaks volumes: Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978) and The Thin Red Line (1998). But something is seemingly beginning to happen with Malick films; they're almost becoming parodies of himself. Knight of Cups skips to a similar theme as his Oscar-nominated The Tree of Life did, but in no way shares the same arresting feel once the movie concludes. Knight of Cups feels like an experiment in expressing the feelings of nothing, except love and loss. It's a cause Malick has flirted with in the past with his 2012 release, To the Wonder. Initially, it has potential to work yet diminishes any chance of plot and character development from taking shape. I've always looked out for Malick's work, as I see him as one of the most important filmmakers currently working. However, his recent works have left me feeling rather flat and downtrodden for being a supporter of his films. It seems as though his masterpieces have already been made and now he's fallen into a metaphoric, grandiose storytelling approach, except, Knight of Cups hardly boasts a storyline of any worth.

It is known throughout Hollywood that Malick likes to ruminate on his ideas for very long stretches of time. He was talking about Knight of Cups as far back as post-production on The Tree of Life in 2011. The movie was shot over nine weeks in 2012 across various L.A. and Las Vegas locations, and post-production was typically lengthy. Working with a small core group of editors, Malick took his time to perfect the cut of the movie, but to put it simply, the results aren't worth the wait.

It goes without saying that Knight of Cups is a specialist film that'll solely appeal to Malick die hards and the art house crowd. But having said that, most of that niche audience will feel let down by his latest offering. It comes across cumbersome, albeit spectacle on the eye. You get the sense you're watching Christian Bale in a series of Chanel television commercials; artistic in visual approach but flimsy in narrative panache.

Official Trailer for 'Knight of Cups'

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JamesArthurArmstrong JamesArthurArmstrong

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