@ New Yorker
What makes the film thrillingly different—in content and in affect, in emotional energy and in visual imagination—is its metaphysical and religious element. There’s an expressly transcendent theme in “Moonrise Kingdom” that raises the tender and joyous story of young lovers on the run to a spiritual adventure. The moral vision of the world, which was always implicit and latent in Anderson’s other films, here bursts out as a distinctive, ecstatic, visionary new cinematic dimension. Anderson has always been far more than just an exquisite stylist—his style is an essential part of a consistent spiritual vision. But in “Moonrise Kingdom,” his world view is projected beyond personal experience into a cosmic fantasy. It’s Anderson’s own counter-Scripture, a vision of a moral order, ordained from on high, that challenges the official version instilled by society at large—and he embodies it in images of an apt sublimity (as well as an aptly self-deprecating humor). . . .
There’s always an element of catastrophe in Anderson’s films, yet here it’s set in expressly mythopoetic, religious terms, with the local historian and narrator (Bob Balaban) foretelling, as if prophetically, apocalyptic doings. It’s impossible to talk much more about these doings, but the mention of Noah should suffice. The young lovers, with their innocent, daring, intensely sincere, and consecrated love (and the ultimate proof of that consecration, as one spiritually awakened young character says, is their willingness to die for each other), have provoked a scandal. They are assumed by the authorities—parents, scoutmasters, scouts, and even the state, as embodied in the figure of social services (Tilda Swinton)—to be doing something indecent, immoral, intolerable. They’re outlaws, and the law—the ostensible moral law—is after them. But in Anderson’s view, they’re on the side of the good, indeed, the highest good. And he conveys the notion—again, latent in his other films, explicit here—that true and noble souls are in synch with nature, and that when true passion is thwarted or frustrated, all hell—or, rather, heaven—breaks loose, with a deluge of divine vengeance against those who would keep the couple apart. (In another Hitchcock reference, to “Vertigo,” Anderson expressly challenges the stiflingly moralistic world view of that film and filmmaker, targeting not the lovers in a bell tower but the tower itself.)
The story of Noah and the ark, after all, a story of destruction, is also a story of rebirth—of couples paired off under divine authority. “Moonrise Kingdom” poses a vast question: Who are the righteous? Those whose love is true and beautiful. It’s proven true by their readiness to face danger, even death; it’s proven beautiful by their sense of style, which, in Anderson’s world, is the touchstone of great emotion and the noble expression of it—the conversion of great emotion into great and good works, and thereby into the improvement of the world through its beautification. . . .