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Critic's Choice: Terrence Malick's extended ‘Tree of Life’ branches out beautifully

Critic's Choice: Terrence Malick's extended ‘Tree of Life’ branches out beautifully
Watch the Criterion Collection's new extended version of Terrence Malick's 2011 film, "The Tree of Life," and you'll get to see Brad Pitt take a swig from a bottle of Tabasco sauce. (Merie Wallace / 20th Century Fox)

Baby elephants. A harrowing thunderstorm. A visiting uncle. Brad Pitt taking a swig from a bottle of Tabasco sauce. Sean Penn wandering about, lost in thought. OK, I could have done with less of the latter, but in all other respects, it’s a marvel to behold the 50 extra minutes of footage included with this new Criterion Collection release of Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011).

The movie remains a wonder: a vision of earthly grace and cosmic transcendence, an evocation of childhood as emotionally intimate as it is psychologically incisive, graced by perhaps the most memorable (and terrifying) performance of Pitt’s career. Your mileage, needless to say, may vary. If you think “The Tree of Life” is an impenetrable bore, you are unlikely to be enriched by more of it. If you consider it to be one of the richest, most inexhaustible works of cinematic and religious art of the 21st century, there’s a strange joy in knowing that some movies, like life, are never truly finished.

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