Badlands

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Set in 1958 against the breathtaking backdrop of the titular South Dakota mountain range, Terrence Malick’s broodingly beautiful debut feature Badlands chronicles the murderous journey of an ill-fated young couple, unforgettably portrayed by then-rising Hollywood stars Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen. Loosely based on the infamous true crime case of ‘50s spree killer Charles Starkweather, the story is narrated by Holly (Spacek), a bored, naïve and highly malleable teenage girl living in a small, dead-end plains town. Holly’s life with her single father (played by Warren Oates) is uneventful to the point of catatonia, until a chance encounter with a charming, rebellious young hoodlum (Sheen) – who happens to have a sociopathic appetite for grisly violence – takes Holly down a dark spiritual path and eventually into a harrowing, homicidal road trip that has life-altering consequences for them both. One of the landmarks achievements of the “New Hollywood” film movement, Badlands stunned early ‘70s audiences with its unique blend of deadpan lyricism, eerie violence and wistful romanticism. Propelled by stunning cinematography and an astonishingly effective evocation of the pent-up rage simmering just beneath the flat surface of rural America, Badlands stands today as a cinema classic that boldly signaled the arrival of one of our greatest filmmakers. (Dir. by Terrence Malick, 1973, USA, 93 mins., Rated R) Digital