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– David Thomson

(1973) “I can’t allow that,” states polite, soft-spoken James Dean-influenced garbageman Martin Sheen, just prior to cold-blooded murder. Based on the 1958 Starkweather-Fugate murders, Malick’s debut is a classic outlaw couple on the run story, with Sheen taking teenage baton twirler Sissy Spacek — after blasting her father Warren Oates — on a crime spree across the prairies towards Saskatchewan — where Sheen plans to become a Mountie. But that’s only the first level of Malick’s unique work, the continuing mayhem accompanied by surrealistically opaque dialogue; distanced by dazzling color photography of ethereal dreamlike landscapes (at one point, in the middle of nowhere, they dance to the car radio in headlight beams and a semi-classical score in counterpoint); all narrated in the past tense in Spacek’s romance magazine style: “He wanted to die with me and I dreamed of being lost forever in his arms.” Malick cameos as the architect, because “we didn’t have enough money to fly someone in” — but seeing himself onscreen proved so traumatic that he’s been camera-shy ever since. He waited another five years until his next film, Days of Heaven, then took a two-decade break before his third, The Thin Red Line. This new restoration was supervised by Emmanuel Lubezki, DP of Malick’s The Tree of Life and the recently released To the WonderApprox. 94 min. DCP.





*****! [5 Stars!]
 [highest rating]

"Whatever you think you need to do this week, make some time to settle into a seat at Film Forum and be beguiled... Malick’s debut now has 40 years behind it—and a revolution as well. Badlands, an internalization of the lovers-on-the-run thriller (personified by Sheen and Spacek, fresh as daisies), is the blueprint for Malick’s entire output, marked by near-whispered narration and communion with the natural world. He’s never quite topped it." 
– Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York

“So rich in ideas it hardly knows where to turn. Transcendent themes of love and death are fused with a pop-culture sensibility and played out against a Midwestern background, which is breathtaking both in its sweep and in its banality. Days of Heaven put Malick’s intuitions into cogent form, but this is where his art begins.”
– Dave Kehr

"While Malick remains a distinctive, intriguing filmmaker, Badlands, a fable of love doomed and damned and in retreat amidst a sensuous rock and roll oblivion, is still his most compelling feature, largely because it’s such an eerie and succinct distillation of the ethos of desolation and revelation that took hold of the best American movies of the early ’70s."
– Paul Anthony Johnson, Cinespect
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"Malick’s most accessible and polished film… [his] signature visual style shows up throughout. Martin Sheen's coolly detached protagonist is one of those characters you never want to stop watching."
– Daniel Loria, The L Magazine

“The story moves on with an energetic fatalism. Above all, Badlands balanced the externals of landscape and violence with their imaginative resonance. It was legitimate for the film to avoid explanation because the action was so dense and eloquent, the myth so solid and matter-of-fact.”
– David Thomson

“Brilliantly composed with a loose, directionless swing that looks easy (but isn’t), and a superbly delicate, literate voiceover from Spacek that conveys the bizarre babes-in-the-wood quality of their life together on the run... An unmissable, transcendentally beautiful classic.”
– Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

"Its pictorial splendor and cool yet disquieting narrative established Malick as one of the most compelling artists to come out of early-'70s Hollywood.The sublime visuals lend a dreamlike beauty to the couple's trip even as their actions are treated casually; Malick neither glamorizes Kit and Holly nor consigns them to the bloody end of their fame-fixated predecessors in Bonnie and Clyde. With the couple's opaque dialogue and Holly's fanzine dream narration, Malick further denies an easy explanation for their crimes."
– The New York Times

"This first, magnificent, outpouring of the sporadic genius of cinema’s equivalent to JD Salinger, Terrence Malick, still seems terrifically modern. Badlands is as psychologically precise as it is splendidly visually observant. But it also exudes a timeless, mythical and tragic quality which is all the more remarkable for the languorous ease with which its story unfolds. Infused with an uncharacterisable romanticism, and employing one of the most entrancing uses of soundtrack music, it’s a challengingly non-judgmental work which lulls the viewer into a sublime state of false security, the better to deliver a stunning but gentle essay on freedom and necessity, life and death."
–  Wally Hammond, Time Out (London)

"Among the great American crime movies, 1973's Badlands stands alone. Malick laid out Badlands as a convincing study of people headed for hell and looking, talking and acting pretty much like any of us. The idea follows the viewer out of the theater."
– Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle