Neither the monumental treatise on the human experience you would expect from Terrence Malick’s four-decades-in-the-making passion project, nor another eye-rollingly pretentious misfire as has characterised the director’s more recent filmography, Voyage of Time dazzles and bemuses in near-equal measure, though is ultimately worth the sit for his loyal fans.
Narrated by Cate Blanchett, this 90-minute feature version of the film (there’s also a 45-minute IMAX alternate narrated by Brad Pitt) ponders the beginnings and inevitable end of the universe, as Blanchett accompanies Malick’s gorgeous natural and man-made visuals with poetic lamentations of the strained relationship between Mother Nature and the human race.
First things first; yes, the narration is pretentious almost to the point of self-parody here, and only intermittently conjures up the ethereal mood and thoughts it’s clearly trying to. In short, if you dislike the flowery voice-overs from Malick’s post-Thin Red Line career in particular, you’re not going to like them here either.
Thankfully, though, it’s incredibly easy to block out Blanchett’s voiceover as white noise, aided by a beautiful musical score and consistently entrancing visuals that are really quite a sight to behold. While it may lack the thematic brilliance and organisation of, say, Ron Fricke’s excellent Baraka and Samsara, Malick still provides some eye-popping glimpses at both the world around us and the wider expanse in space.
It is a movie that will make you feel small in the most relaxing and soothing of ways (though perhaps it might terrify you also), even if most of the points Malick makes seem to have been covered well enough in his prior movies. When the Blu-ray hits stores, it would be an absolute crime if it didn’t include an isolated audio track without the narration, because this will make one hell of a demo disc for your new 4K TV.
A fair mix of Malick’s best and worst instincts as a filmmaker, Voyage of Time may not live up to the immense hype-train chugging in front of it, but it’s still a unique cinematic experience and one best viewed on the biggest screen possible (which sadly probably isn’t all that feasible for most audiences).
Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey is out now in limited US cinemas