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After making lyrical, rapturous films set in the Pacific theater of World War II ("The Thin Red Line") and Jamestown ("The New World"), Terrence Malick has steadily moved closer to present day and his own stories, too.Along the way, Malick has astonished and confounded, and in the relative rush – three films in five years follow four in three decades – he has lost some admirers who have watched his pursuit of transcendence become too dreamy-eyed, too banal to inspire the same adulation the revered filmmaker previously enjoyed. Christian Bale plays a screenwriter whose breakthrough success has brought him riches, women and existential emptiness. Like Malick's two previous films – "The Tree of Life," the astonishing father-son tale writ across the cosmos, and the less successful love story "To the Wonder" – "Knight of Cups" is made in an impressionistic style all Malick's own that has begun to feel, despite its earnest yearning, artificial. The brooding Bale is perhaps a little too well-suited for such meandering (though the film gets a kick from Blanchett's steely presence).
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