Terrence Malick, the universally acclaimed American filmmaker responsible for the key 1970s features Badlands and Days of Heaven, returns for a rare directorial outing with the sweeping period piece The New World -- an epic dramatization of Pocahontas' relationships with John Smith and John Rolfe. Malick's story opens at the dawn of the 17th century, just prior to the colonization of the United States -- when the North American population consisted of an interconnected series of native tribes. In April 1607, three maritime vessels approach the unfamiliar continent, with 103 sailors on board. As members of the Virginia Company, these adventurers carry a royal charter to mount a society on the edge of the new continent. John Smith (Colin Farrell) sits chained below one of the decks. He is a 27-year-old loose cannon, who, for his persistently rebellious acts, has been sentenced to death by hanging as soon as the ships dock. Nevertheless, Captain Christopher Newport (Christopher Plummer) acknowledges Smith's ability to aid with exploration and consents to pardon him as a result. Upon landing, Smith seeks assistance from local Native American tribes with colonization, but runs into the unexpected -- he falls desperately in love with Pocahontas, or "Playful One" (Q'orianka Kilcher), the daughter of the omnipotent Chief Powhatan (August Schellenberg). Needless to say, this does not sit well with Powhatan or the rest of the tribe. Moreover, the oft-bellicose Smith enters a head-to-head conflict with his fellow Britons when he finds his tempestuousness calmed by the tranquility of the new landscape, as the anger and violence of his shipmates concurrently build in the face of the Native Americans. Later, Smith temporarily returns to England; believing that Smith is dead, Pocahontas accepts the hand of plantation owner John Rolfe in marriage (with her father's blessing) and follows Rolfe back to the old country. When Smith returns to America, his intended is nowhere to be seen, and the entire community teeters on the brink of a British-Indian war. Malick shot the production on location in Virginia; it co-stars Jonathan Pryce, John Savage, and David Thewlis.
by Nathan Southern synopsis