• Ashvin

[Review] 'Badlands' Gives Us Our First Taste Of Terrence Malick's Talent


Deputy: You like people? Kit: They’re OK. Deputy: Then why’d you do it? Kit: I don’t know. I always wanted to be a criminal, I guess. Just not this big a one. Takes all kinds, though.


BADLANDS is a romantic and characteristically sincere telling of the real-life murder spree of Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, in 1958.

Albeit being Terrence Malick’s debut feature, it serves as an impressive initiation to his deeply affecting filmography.


It lays a foundation of themes that deal with humanity and the way of nature, which would go on to influence and play bigger roles in his later films, such as The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life.

It’s extremely straight-forward in its direction. It’s direct with its message and its simple script. The script feels very “Yorgos Lanthimos” in how oddly straightforward it is, especially with its blunt wording.

The peculiar aspect of this period crime drama is that despite it being his feature debut, it feels like the least “Malick-film” out of his filmography.


It seems to distance itself from Malick’s accustomed usage of symbolically ambiguous, floaty and deep-rooted themes, dialogue, direction and meaning. It shows that Malick’s adapted to a newer, more obscure style to which has changed over the years, ever since his directorial debut with this film, BADLANDS.

The performances from Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek feel very authentic and humanistic in their portrayal of two young, fearful, and guilty individuals on the run from the state.


Sheen in particular gives a feisty performance – a dangerously hostile and threatening murderer, fuelled by his over-compensating and confrontational ego. He is frantically terrifying at times with how malicious his character tends to be.


A gripping, yet elementary feature for Malick, that serves as a stepping stone for his entry into an impressively moving filmography.


Score: ★★★½

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