The plot follows Kit (Martin Sheen) and Holly (Sissy Spacek) on a killing spree across South Dakota and Montana after murdering her father. What is amazing about this film is the way Sheen and Spacek convey their characters’ complete dislocation from the events that they are taking part in and allude to a certain kind of innocence that makes them very forgivable.
Kit treats murder as if he were a child playing at war with his friends. He makes booby traps, builds tree houses and runs around shooting with no shirt on. When not blasting people in the back, he adopts poses self-consciously learnt from watching James Dean movies. His self-image as a celebrity comes to the fore after his arrest when he entertains the police by giving away his personal possesions as souveniers and bemoans being in solitary confinement because he is sure that he would be popular with other prisoners, particularly the murderers.
Holly seems to live her life as if she were childishly imitating a third rate romance novel. Her voice overs are filled with naive attempts at poetic description that betray her as a girl who is unable to make the transition into womanhood. In her mind, all of Kit’s eccentricities become manifestations of a deep poetic soul and the most pointless of actions, such as shooting a football, become achingly poignant symbolic gestures.
The cinematography in this film is quite simply gorgeous and the haunting use of location makes for some unsettling viewing. Although it is a cliché to say so, the landscape does become a major character in the film and the sparse, roughly-vegetated prairie reflects the emotional barreness of the two leads.
If you haven’t already seen it, watch this film! You will not regret it, I promise you. Don’t forget to watch out for two cameos by the normally camera-shy Terrence Malick.