Movie Review: The Vessel


I should have known going into this movie that any association with Terrence Malick (Executive Producer), usually means I’ll be seeing an obscure and confusing movie. The Vessel is just that (Directed by Julio Quintana), it has Malick’s prints all over it. The plot centers on an unidentified coastal Latin American town, which is hit with a massive tidal wave that wipes away a school full of children. The remaining family and community members are mourning the lost by refusing to have any more children. A young local man cheats death when he awakes hours after drowning. The townspeople start viewing him as a miracle man that can restore their hope.

The plot is clear but the way it plays out isn’t. This movie had me waiting and waiting for something to happen but it never did. The plot is so SLOW. Nothing really happens. There are frequent conversations between the characters that don’t lead anywhere. Martin Sheen plays the local priest, who is attempting to bring faith and hope to the town.

The characters seem very disjointed, not only due to the story plot but in general. The interaction is mundane. Their desires are hinted but not fully explained. The main character Leo (Lucas Quintana) is the man that everyone views as the chosen one but he does nothing spectacular to suggest that. Certain “miracle” events that take place, such as a deathly animal regaining full strength that is accredited to Leo’s presence. The town people paint him as a godlike figure, yet he doesn’t do much besides purse his former crush that he has regrets of not going after.

Visually, the film is as natural looking as most Malick movies are. It’s his strong suite. It’s simple, but very nature-like and raw. It has an artistic look and tone. There is something unfiltered about Malick’s work that should be appreciated. Malick’s unfiltered style projects the most. Credit to the score of the film by Hanan Townshend, whose music is powerful and sets the mood. It’s the highlight of this dull movie.

There is nothing that I liked about the plot of The Vessel. It’s a dull, slow paced and unsatisfying movie. The dialogue is in Spanish with English subtitles.  That wasn’t the issue, the issue was the rapid movement of the subtitles where I had a hard time keeping up with the speed they were coming at. This movie lost me early, I didn’t care enough about any of the characters. The faith and spiritual messages didn’t come through in the overall presentation.

If you’re into the style of Malick movies, this might be a movie you’ll enjoy. For the rest of us who choose to be entertained and come away with at least the basic understanding of the plot, this isn’t a movie that’s worth spending time on. It’s just shy of an hour and a half but it feels like a three hour movie due to the constant conversations that don’t lead to anywhere. Pass on this artsy yawner that doesn’t move towards any sort of gratifying resolution.

RATING: 3/10

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Jim Alexander is one of the co-founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle (CIFCC). He has been a staff writer at since 2014. He helped develop and host the “Correct Opinion Podcast.” Jim has written for and contributed to the Australian movie site He is the United States Film and Entertainment Reporter for BBC’s 5 Live radio show. In addition to his interest in film, he also hosts the “Bachelor Universe” blog and podcast, centered on the ABC show The Bachelor. Jim graduated with a MA in Journalism from DePaul University. He is a die-hard Chicago Bulls and Bears fan. Born in Chicago, but raised in Poland, he grew up playing soccer and remains an avid fan of the sport. He is passionate about film and strives to incorporate new and innovative ways to present film criticism. He currently resides in a suburb outside of Chicago, IL.