Tilman and Lanton Mills, two cowboys who set off on horseback to rob a bank. On the way, they stop to see their boss, the "Old Man", only to discover he has been murdered by another cowboy,... See full summary »
Harry Dean Stanton,
Kit Carruthers, a young garbage collector and his girlfriend Holly Sargis from Fort Dupree, South Dakota, are on the run after killing Holly's father who disagreed with their relationship. On their way towards the Badlands of Montana they leave a trail of dispassionate and seemingly random murders. A very intriguing narrative without judgements, and lacking the usually sensational approach of this genre. Very good acting and directing, and beautiful photography. The script was based upon the true story of the Charles Starkweather and Caril-Ann Fugate murders in 1958. Written by
Theo de Grood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
He was 25 years old. He combed his hair like James Dean. She was 15. She took music lessons and could twirl a baton. For a while they lived together in a tree house. In 1959, she watched while he killed a lot of people. See more »
The film's tag line ("In 1959 a lot of people were killing time. Kit and Holly were killing people") inspired the Zodiac Killer (who'd been lying low for some years) to write a letter to the newspaper denouncing their flippant attitude to violence in society by running such an ad. See more »
A camera shadows falls on Kit's back when father and Holly find Kit in the house. See more »
[voice over narration]
My Mother dies of pneumonia when I was just a kid. My Father kept their wedding cake in the freezer for ten whole years. After the funeral he gave it to the yard man. He tried to act cheerful but he could never be consoled by the little stranger he found in his house. Then one day hoping to begin a new life away from the scene of all these memories he moved us from Texas to Port Dupree, South Dakota.
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An astonishing film, uncomfortable, bewildering but never less than beautiful. I came away and went straight to my dictionary to look for a definition of 'evil'. My OED uses three words. 'Bad', 'sin' and 'harm'. Neither 'bad' nor 'sin' get a foothold in this morally sterile film. Any impression of wrongdoing is dissolved in Holly's intermittent voice-over, recording Kit's justifications for his actions. All the film is conducted at this remove - even the killings themselves: Kit only uses guns, distancing himself and his impulse from the violence of murder; the victims die silently with little bleeding. Many are shot in the back or out of frame. This way even the idea of 'harm' is removed.
Stripped of a moral framework the film becomes terrifying. The natural inclination is to side with this charming couple falling in love. Then without warning, Kit's unfettered id can lash out with the amplified, impersonalised firearms he carries. The insecurity of whether you're watching the good guys or the bad is as gripping as any individual performance.
That said, Spacek and Sheen are necessarily strong. They have to carry the film, their characters are strangely feral. Untutored, yet modern, Kit's moral framework is gleaned from movie and music personalities (he beams at being called James Dean). In fact I was poleaxed by Sheen's performance, a schizophrenic construction of barbarism and erroneously understood manliness. I'll never watch the awkward energy of Michael J Fox in Back To The Future or Teenwolf in the same way again.
On top of everything Malick films America beautifully. The two senses of Kit's fruitless journey contradict themselves; even the soundtrack oscillates between the aspirational (Nat King Cole) and the bucolic (a capella singing, a marimba). It's so well composed and executed it's possible to feel cut off. It's hard to argue with for a first picture though 8/10
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