K’s review published on Letterboxd:
The signature has become darker and the paper, the canvas has become lighter. Days of Heaven is centered around a complex love triangle that has weight to it, but is also about the industrialization period during the 20's and private ownership. Malick's camera was anchored by rather loose shackles in Badlands, but now he is free. The camera has been set free and the camerawork has become more than just a technical aspect. It has fully evolved into its own character, living amongst the immortalized and canonized people in the film.
What's probably the most impressive aspect to Days of Heaven is how Malick manipulates and alters the sense and idea of time with nuance, with the light, stimulating imagery right by its side. Events unfold so quickly, one thing after the other, making it Malick's most accessible in terms of pacing. It has a very fantastical ambiance hanging over it and accompanies the love triangle very well. Love or the idea of "falling in love" with someone is a wondrous idea by itself, so it only makes sense for Malick and his visuals to fit this, which it does and with impeccable skill.
The child voice-over came off as just another avenue for Malick's conservative philosophies and ideas, which comes off pretty clear through the visual imagery and some of the dialogue from the characters. The ending as well was something unexpected as it was left a bit on the ambiguous, indefinite side and the film was mostly demure and conventional (besides the direction and narrative style). It lost a bit of traction and its grip as it was nearing its end as well.
The traces of Malick from Badlands is still evident in Days of Heaven. Badlands is the superior film between the two because of the dynamic between Kit and Holly was much more refreshing that the love triangle that can be found here in Days of Heaven. Nevertheless, Malick's sophomore effort still has the emotional uppercut that was only made possible because of Malick's new found freedom behind the camera that wasn't present as it was in Badlands.