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The New World

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense battle sequences

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Romance, Historical Drama, Adventure
2 hr. 30 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
January 13, 2006 (wide) / DVD release: May 9, 2006
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Relevant Issues
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
The film’s account of Pocahontas is mostly fictional. Discover her true story!
Featuring: Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer, Christopher Newport, Q’Orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, David Thewlis, Noah Taylor, Irene Bedard
Director: Terrence Malick
Producer: Sarah Green
Distributor: New Line Cinema

“Once discovered, it was changed forever”

Copyrighted, New Line Cinema

The original film “The New World” contains a story about an old world, created by a director whose gifts come from another world. A true artist and certainly a poet, Director Terrence Malick has forsaken taking another twenty-year hiatus (as he did from 1978 to 1998) before making his latest film about the English arriving and settling in America. He has conceived, once again, a beautiful production that at its very heart engages its audience in a love story amidst adverse circumstances and harsh conditions. Its themes are intricate and moving, and clearly resonate with his three other films “Badlands”, “Days of Heaven”, and “The Thin Red Line”.

It is Virginia 1607 when three ships arrive from England filled with people eager to begin a new life in a new land. On board is Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) who is being held prisoner for treason, but soon released and commissioned by Captain Newport (Christopher Plummer) to lead a brigade upriver and find food. The mission is to meet with natives and conduct a trade for necessities, but in the process all Smith’s men are lost, and he alone survives. It is in captivity that Smith meets the beautiful young Native American girl “Pocahontas” (Q’orianka Kilcher) and falls helplessly in love with her. Because of their bond, each of their lives is inexorably different, and while their love is true, it is not always ideal.

As with most of his movies, Malick refrains from using foul language and nudity to tell his story. There are some intimate situations between John Smith and Pocahontas, but the emphasis is on them talking and looking each other in the eyes rather than emphasizing something sexual. A few times Pocahontas does have a somewhat meager outfit on, but as Producer Sarah Green explained, women of these tribes actually went topless. Green says that the reason they chose not to have the women portrayed this way is because they wanted this film to be seen by everyone. The film does carry a PG-13 rating due to some intense battle scenes, but these refrain from being gratuitous as well.

The issue of Pocahontas’s explicit faith in Christ is expressed towards the end of this film in a brief scene where she is baptized. At this point she has fully decided to become a Christian. Besides this, there is not much emphasis placed on her Christianity, per se. However, throughout the course of the story, both her and John Smith are portrayed as highly spiritual people. As with all of Malick’s films, there is a voice-over narration by various characters, and at times reveals not only their inner thoughts, but also divine prayers to God. These soliloquy-like moments in this film are certainly open to interpretation, and include such statements as, “Come, Spiritwe rise from out of the soul of you,” (Pocahontas); “Who are you, whom I faintly hear? Who leads me ever on? Where? I will not die until I find it,” (Smith); “Father, where do you live? Show me your face. Give me a sign,” (Pocahontas); and, “Lord, we have gone away from You.” (Smith)

There is too much to appreciate about the poetic filmmaker Terrence Malick. It seems that his work truly lies in what makes film the exceptional medium that it is, namely story, photography, and natural acting—and how he is able to orchestrate these elements harmoniously. Besides the fact that the film is shot entirely on location (around the actual area that these historical events originally occurred in Virginia), Malick’s process is very much an organic one. For example, he only uses natural lighting while filming. Furthermore, actors Q’orianka Kilcher and Christian Bale shared how Malick would often have them scrap their lines if they were getting in the way and hindering the emotion and nonverbal communication occurring during a scene. Malick’s approach is one that supports Green’s statement that his films have a “very deep understanding of humanity,” and that this film, “The New World”, is a “love story in a natural setting.”

As for the historical accuracy of the film, it is noted that there is poetic license taken to tell this story. The original journals of John Smith and John Rolfe (Christian Bale) were utilized and incorporated in writing the script, but the goal was not to make a documentary about the events. Malick has used these resources, but has also interpreted their ideas, inserting some of his own, and rewritten them more poetically. At the same time the film does include actual unarguable events, such as how Pocahontas was a life-saving aid to Smith and the English people. In Smith’s journals he writes, “She [Pocahontas], next under God, was the instrument to preserve this colony from death, famine and utter confusion.” This fact is undoubtedly portrayed in the film.

This film is more like the story of Romeo and Juliet than a movie such as “Braveheart”. It is not out to rewrite history, but does seem to explore the intricacies of a relationship between a man and a woman, namely John Smith and Pocahontas, and how it may have been between them. You may not find the action within this film that you anticipate, but it is one that will certainly not leave you bereft of meaning.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See our interview with the Producer of this film, Sarah Green.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I loved this movie. I have read about Pocahontas and already knew she was an extraordinary person and Christian. This movie paid wonderful homage to her. I was never bored, because I knew the story and relished every bit of the telling. True, it did weakly portray her Christianity, but in one scene toward the end she said something while in prayer about “make me humble,” and I felt that was a very Christian concept. I was marveled that two love stories could move me to tears in one movie, and that they contained no sex, nudity or sensuality. A movie I will buy, to show my children and grandchildren, as I want them to know this unsung heroine of the new world. And, of course, I will tell them the rest of the story.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Kathleen Coggeshall, age 53
Positive—As I watched this movie, I knew without a doubt many people would find it way too slow, but I found it absolutely beautiful. It made me ache with a longing unspeakable, yet not unbearable. I’m no fan of tragedies (“Titanic” is probably the most popular movie I ever hated, and I have avoided even trying “Romeo and Juliet”), but this story was so real, so spiritual, and so moving, that I did not feel abused by it. I appreciated the light touch on the tragic element of Pocohontas' death, as opposed to the intentional wringing of my emotions during “Titanic” (I literally had flashbacks for several weeks after Titanic, like post traumatic stress disorder). The narration of the grieving husband writing a letter to his son gave me comfort in the midst of grief while watching Pocohontas die.

The beauty of the scenery took my breath away. It took a certain relaxing into the pace and style of this director in order to fully appreciate what was happening, and it certainly is a plus to know the historical story before seeing this movie. For instance, I knew nothing about the second man in Pocohontas' life, and was quite thrown when he came into the picture. But I was so impressed with him, his willingness to give up his wife because he loved her so much, that it made the story much more rich. I wish every young man would model his romantic life after this character, a truly Godly man.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Cherise, age 37
Positive—Good movie, well made, nothing offensive, but slower than molasses in winter.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Jessica, age 23
Positive—When one goes to see “The New World”, one must know what they are getting themselves into, otherwise I fear they won’t be able to really appreciate the film. It’s a Terrance Malick movie, and as such it defies all conventional wisdom on films. There is no “real” plot to the movie, and the symbolic merges in with the real to express an idea, an emotion, a thought, or a philosophy, sometimes all in one. People call Malick’s films pretentious, but I think that all his films exhibit a reality of emotion and thought that we rarely find in the history of film. Like “The Thin Red Line”, the visual, the spoken and the music are combined to bring us poetry, to bring us a peice inseperable and real art that causes us to reflect on ourselves, our place in nature, and our connection to each other.

I think that we, as Christians, have become a poor lot indeed, if we cannot see Jesus Christ or God displayed in art unless His name is mentioned in our western understanding. One of Malick’s greatest themes in his films is our relationship with God, and I think that in “The New World”, Malick does just that. We hear John Smith praying to God, and more so we see “Pocahontas” praying to God throughout the film [though her experience with God is obviously different from our Western understanding, but it is in no way less spiritually reflective]. I think that, as Christians, we need to let go of our childish understandings of films and see when a director is reaching out to challenge contmeporary ideas of not only film, but also society.

I cannot convince those who did not like this film to like it, but I can tell those who are considering to go see it that if you want to see a conventional movie go see “King Kong” or “The Chronicles of Narnia”. If you are like me, and have been waiting to see something more, something beautiful and reflective then “The New World” is what you are looking for. It is a film with few equals.

Out of fear of being long winded, I just want to comment on the beautiful cinematography, the quiet, pensive, incredible performances of all the actors, the breathtaking music by James Horner, and the intricate set peices and costumes, that they themselves give us a rare window to see what life was like for European settlers in North America. Peole say Colin Farrel wasn’t a good choice for John Smith, but I thought his performance was the best in the film, his eyes and expressions communicated the emotions of love and loss, as well as the ambition that his character goes through. Dialogue in the movie is rare, but I found the reflections of characters to be so insightful and beautiful that dialogue was unimportant. I cannot emphasize enough the greatness of this film, and I hope there are others out there who feel the same way.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—John Vychytil, age 23
Neutral—The reviewer and other reviews we read were right on—beautiful scenery, no nudity and no foul language, but they forgot to add one very critical ingredient—B-O-R-I-N-G. We were anticipating a great movie, but were subjected to a plot that didn’t make any sense, voice-overs, verbose poetry, unintelligible dialogue and the portrayal of an event that left me wondering how our early ancestors could have possibly survived based on their total lack of common sense and intelligence. Thank goodness for the “Naturals” who fed them or we wouldn’t be around to have seen this dreadful movie. Had to nudge the wife three different times to keep her awake to see the ending, which couldn’t come soon enough.
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Sid and Brenda, age 59
Neutral—“The New World” was a mix bag for me. The artistic elements of the film are excellent. I will not repeat what others have already stated. The sounds of the forest and other reverberations of nature are beautifully captured to assist in the storytelling of the movie and render the illusion that the viewer is actually there. I enjoyed the soliloquy-like narratives of the three principle characters, Pocahontas, Smith and Rolfe because they allowed the audience to hear their inner most thoughts.

The film is more about Pocahontas’ journey in life than the exploration of America. Kilcher was mesmerizing in her portrayal of the Native American heroine. I also enjoyed how the rest of the Native Americans were represented. They came across as kind, loving, noble people who had a deep spiritual sense of life even though they were not yet exposed to the truth of the gospel to set them free from many of their superstitions.

What I found offensive was how the film portrayed Pocahontas’ understanding of God AFTER her conversion to Christianity. It remained the same! This left me wondering if Malick the film’s director gave any significant importance to the real Pocahontas’ Christian faith. Her baptism scene lasts about five-seconds and if the viewer blinks, it might be missed all together.

I screened this movie on DVD… She continued to call God “mother” and presented prayers and offerings of thanksgivings to the “great sun” (not the Son of God). See never calls God “father” before or after her Christian conversion but instead continually calls upon the divine feminine which leaves me to suspect the director is trying to imply all roads lead to the One True God. However, according to Jesus this is untrue because the Son stated that He alone was “The Way, The Truth and The Life” and also clearly taught how one ought to pray.

This may sound trivial to some but I believe it is important because there are basic Christian precepts that cannot be altered to appease the casual seeker or else the Christian faith will lose its savor and be one among the many false “New Age” religions that permeate our society today. We are called to worship God in “spirit and in truth.” This may come across as being discriminatory but then again, truth always discriminates against falsehood. …
My Ratings: Offensive / 4
—Albert Anthony Buonanno III, age 49
Neutral—What began as a mildly entertaining film, became a tremendous challenge to my attention span, in less than an hour. Nothing in it had really offended me, but to relieve it’s slowness, we viewed the last 35 minutes of it mostly at 2X speed.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Mark, age 55 (USA)
Negative—I really wanted to like this movie and was looking forward to seeing it. However, I walked out wondering what in the world that movie was about. It starts out good, but then just leaves you bored and squirming in your seat. It ends as a tragedy with little hope. (*the reason I gave it 4 stars is because the cinematography is astounding and it may well be worth seeing just for that*)

However, the story needs help. My mom said she was completely confused about the plot, and I came to the conclusion that the editing, writing and length of the movie, just make it too hard to really enjoy. I was thinking there was going to be Christian values in this movie, but the only thing you might learn about Christ from this movie, is that He’s an uncaring God who doesn’t protect or provide for His people (the priest dies pretty early on). The really big problem though, is the fact that “mother Earth worship” is explicitly expressed throughout the entire film, almost as if that’s the point of the movie, to promote this false religion.

Bottom line: This movie is tragic love story with great scenery that leaves you feeling sad and wanting to watch a better movie when you get home.
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Brett, age 28
Negative—I really don’t mean to be rude, but I just finished watching one of the most boring films I’ve ever watched. I did not resist and came over to the site, because criticism may always be constructive, and that’s my intention. The movie could even win a prize for photography, but for absolutely every other category, the score is doubtlessly “0.” I am angry because I’ve wasted two and a half hours of a precious and rare holiday of mine, waiting until the end of the movie to see if it got any better, and it didn’t. So I feel I have the right to protest. DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE!
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Mario Freitas, age 40
Comments from young people
Negative—Really Boring. I’ve always been interested in the stories around Jamestown, but this movie was a waste of two and a half hours. Morally, it wasn’t too bad—there was no nudity, but there were some (kissing) love scenes that I thought were too long. I give “The New World” an “Average” morality rating, but only 1 “star” for film quality.
My Ratings: Average / 1
—Trisha, age 16
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—I watched roughly one third of The New World and it was an edited version from CleanPlay. There were a few reasons why I never finished the movie. First of all, it was boring, at least to the point I watched. But the real problem was its extreme sensual content. The entire portion of the movie I watched was the forplay to sex between Smith and Pocahontas. Though the act of sex was not shown (at least in my edited version) the impication of it was absolutely clear. It is implied that fornication was the real impetus that saves the struggling colony.

Another thing that disturbed me was the movie’s blatant political correctness. In the movie, the white people are cruel and uncivilized, while the Indians are kind and civilized; the Christians are bad, the non-Christians are good; the white people are prejudiced and the Indians are not. This is contrary to a Christian worldview that declares that everyone is a sinner by nature and by choice. I would not recommend this movie to anyone! Since it is not fit for children or teens to watch it is also not fit for adults.
—Glenn, age 53 (USA)