Luke Thorne’s review published on Letterboxd:
Richard Gere and Brooke Adams star in Terrence Malick’s Oscar-winning story of a love triangle set against the backdrop of the endless wheat fields of Midwest America. Also starring Sam Shepherd.
Terrence Malick had made a terrific film debut as director and writer with the fact-based drama Badlands, which saw the breakthrough of Sissy Spacek and she would become a big star with Brian De Palma’s Carrie.
Now, Malick’s second film is more comfortable to watch than Badlands, but it’s still an excellent effort nonetheless.
Days of Heaven is a story of romance and killing told through the speech of a kid and sensitive pictures of nature in 1916, in which a steelworker (Richard Gere) gets out of Chicago after a battle with his manager; accompanied by little sister (Linda Manz) and girlfriend (Brooke Adams).
Richard Gere and Brooke Adams both give very good performances in their respective roles as Bill and Abby, the steelworker and his lover who yield crops for a rich farmer, while Linda Manz is decent in her role as Bill’s little sister Linda. They suit their roles well.
Elsewhere, there is a solid supporting performance to be had from Sam Shepherd in his role as the farmer who is believed not to have long left to live. Shepherd suits his part really well and I think he gives the best performance in the film.
The direction from Mallick is excellent because he allows the facial expressions to be seen to a strong effect throughout, while also keeping a mostly pleasant atmosphere happening as well and the script is written to a terrific standard by the director as they make the movie good to follow.
The camera, music, costume and sound stand out best in terms of the technical aspects, because the camera makes really, really good use of the locations and also captures the tense and dramatic moments well, which get the edge-of-the-seat status; the music is enjoyable to listen to; the costumes are very nicely designed; the sound is excellent as you have to listen to.
The movie managed to deservedly win the Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Néstor Almendros), while it also rightly got nominated for Best Costume Design (Patricia Norris), Best Sound Mixing (John Wilkinson, Robert W. Glass Jr., John T. Reitz and Barry Thomas) and Best Original Score (Ennio Morricone).
Ennio Morricone did win a British Academy Film Award for Best Film Music, while the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director (Terrence Malick).
Overall, Days of Heaven is a really enjoyable drama, due to Terrence Malick’s excellent direction and script, as well as the good performances and brilliant technical aspects.