Mike’s review published on Letterboxd:
There's no denying that this is a good film. However, I did find elements of the narrative to be a bit shoddy. It's good overall, but there are some problems.
From a technical standpoint, it's incredible. The sweeping cinematography captures the gorgeous landscapes and environments. I also really liked the extreme close up shots of the locusts, finding those to be especially well shot. Ennio Morricone's score is also great, and probably my favorite part about this film. Right from the opening, the haunting yet beautiful piano part plays, giving you a sense that you're in for something special. The score is almost dreamlike, hypnotic if you will. Every note played conveys the atmosphere of this film, signaling emotion and intensity.
Overall I felt that the story was well written, but I felt that the film dragged on a bit too long. Even though the film is only an hour and a half long, there were many times where I felt that some scenes overstayed their welcome. There were a lot of filler scenes, mostly to allow the voiceover to be played. Speaking of the voiceover, I wasn't really a fan. Linda Manz's narration was improvised, and you can certainly tell. Maybe this was done to give a sense of authenticity to the film, but in the finished product it just feels out of place. For a film that Malick tried to perfect to a tee, the narration sticks out like a sore thumb. Manz often trips over her lines, and the southern drawl doesn't help much either. Maybe Malick included this to provide a naive persons point of view on what was happening onscreen, but I don't know. All I know is that it personally didn't work for me Needless to say, it was the voiceover and over abundance of filler shots that contributed to the slow pacing. While the cinematography in those filler shots was excellent, they just didn't need to be there. But back to the story, I felt like it was good overall. The story was nothing deep, with it all being kinda surface level. Contrary to Badlands, there wasn't really much to it thematically, and I couldn't really pull out a central idea. The characters are also a bit bare bones, and I didn't really feel like they "grew" throughout the film. There weren't really character arcs, it was more just like they established who the character is and then left it to the narration. For what the film was the story is fine, but it was a bit disappointing.
I think we can agree that the visuals save this film. If it weren't for every shot being precise and beautiful, this film would be purely mediocre. It was really the visuals and score that contributed to my enjoyment of the film. While the story was fine, I felt it was a bit disappointing compared to Badlands.
Overall, while Days Of Heaven is a masterpiece visually, the story left a lot to be desired. I wouldn't go into this one with the highest of expectations, but it's still a good movie nonetheless. Maybe a rewatch will make me enjoy this film a bit more, but for now I still think that Badlands is his best.