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The Thin Red Line

A movie directed by Terrence Malick

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Which line shall they cross next?

  • May 8, 2011
**** out of ****

The last time I saw a Terrence Malick film was when I watched "Days of Heaven". I swore I would see more of his work, and as you can see, I haven't been so faithful to that promise. So here I am reviewing Malick's third film, "The Thin Red Line", which sees the legendary artistic mastermind tackling a genre I always imagined he would tackle; the war genre. Malick is good at flawlessly directing his films, adding beautiful cinematography to intensify mood and emotions. He's a story-teller, a philosopher, and a true artist. He's made yet another great movie with his third outing.

What I love about films is their ability to depict something that video games, novels, or anything else, for the matter, can possibly show. The intense, brutal, and emotional side of war has lost meaning to most of America due to those silly "Call of Duty" games, but you can do so much more with the concept of war when you're making a film. You can either make it look fun, or you can punch the audience in the face with emotions. Your call. But a film has the right to be entertaining and painful, doesn't it? Just like "Platoon" and several other great films before it, "The Thin Red Line" does not embrace or promote war; it makes it look like shit. And it's as sad as ever to witness unfold.

The film takes place during the battle of Guadalcanal, which took place during World War II. A lot of the film focuses on the soldiers in "C Company", although it focuses on just about everyone else as well. As with all war films, the actual combat scenes take up most of the film, which isn't a problem given how fascinating they are. Malick tells his story with both complexity and affection for the emotions of his soldier characters. I liked the characters because they each had personalities, histories, and reasons why they were fighting. You just can't have a good war film without those ingredients.

The film's central themes are typical-war-film-fare themes; bloodlust, violence, and loss of humanity. The film's message is this: After a war, there's no returning to your life. This theme has been re-used, but there's a certain beauty to "The Thin Red Line" that makes all the horrors and sorrow of these days in war both fascinating, cruel, and powerful.

Terrence Malick knows how to make a movie. He's a born filmmaker who prefers cinematography over anything else; yet his films tell powerful and emotionally resonant tales. He really is just a great filmmaker, and "The Thin Red Line" is another absorbing work. It's a war epic, thus it is long, but never overlong. Two hours of footage was cut, which cuts out many actors, as it would appear, but I can't complain. After all, war is longer than three hours. Malick is merely treating us with essential decency.

The war images shown in the film are haunting and unforgettable; sometimes even frightening. But after all, they should be; it is war. War is violent, messy, sad, and full of loss. This film shows it all; without graphic amounts of violence, but with some genuinely emotional understanding none the less. I also admired how Malick showed the environment around these soliders; imagery that ranges from the animals to the vegetation, all the way to the little noises that inhabit the air. I liked "The Thin Red Line" for the skill and power that went into it. I loved it for different reasons, some I shall not say, for they may just spoil the film for you. And given how good it is, I wouldn't want to do that.

The reason I have not mentioned such things as "performance" and "music" is because (1.) there are so many actors to the point where singling a few out would be unfair, and (2.) the music is great, I just forgot to mention it. What takes center stage here is, as I said, the direction of Malick. This was the first film in twenty years from Terrence Malick, when it initially released, and if one can make a come-back as good as this, one must be a cinematic god. Perhaps Malick will someday be known as a historical man. To me, he already is influential. Nobody can be quite like him, nobody can imitate him, and nobody can make films like he does. "The Thin Red Line" is a great cinematic experience; beautifully shot, powerful, and well-made all around. For those reasons, I am recommending it ever-so-highly.

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More The Thin Red Line reviews
review by . September 29, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
What a pity "The Thin Red Line" is. What a pity that it was released the same year of Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan." What a pity that it was nominated for Best Picture against Spielberg's aforementioned "Saving Private Ryan." What a pity this movie has always been in the shadows of "Saving Private Ryan." What a pity that I should see it the day after I see "Saving Private Ryan." Like "Saving Private Ryan," "The Thin Red Line" takes place during World War II. The battle that "The Thin …
review by . October 28, 2004
Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest directors ever to breath, stood firm in naming The Thin Red Line as one of the top ten most important films of the 1990's. I couldn't agree more.    The Thin Red line is an incredible achievement. It doesn't take half a brain nowadays to create an all out action fest, with fast editing and mindless violence. Malick stands out on his own and selectively chose a film that concentrates on then internal war of the mind, which just happens to be …
review by . January 19, 2003
Critics raved about the director's past work. Were eager to see new work, especially such an attractive cast in such an ambitious subject. They saw the movie. The movie was "artsy." They raved.But did anyone understand it? I don't care how "philosophical" it was, or how pretty the flowers on the island looked in contrast to the brutality of war. I know it was an anti-war statement (at least I imagine it was). But any "issue" movie still needs to have a coherent plot. It was virtually impossible …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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One of the cinema's great disappearing acts came to a close with the release ofThe Thin Red Linein late 1998. Terrence Malick, the cryptic recluse who withdrew from Hollywood visibility after the release of his visually enthralling masterpieceDays of Heaven(1978), returned to the director's chair after a 20-year coffee break. Malick's comeback vehicle is a fascinating choice: a wide-ranging adaptation of a World War IInovel(filmed once before, in 1964) by James Jones. The battle for Guadalcanal Island gives Malick an opportunity to explore nothing less than the nature of life, death, God, and courage. Let that be a warning to anyone expecting a conventional war flick; Malick proves himself quite capable of mounting an exciting action sequence, but he's just as likely to meander into pure philosophical noodling--or simply let the camera contemplate the first steps of a newly birthed tropical bird, the sinister skulk of a crocodile. This is not especially an actors' movie--some faces go by so quickly they barely register--but the standouts are bold: Nick Nolte as a career-minded colonel, Elias Koteas as a deeply spiritual captain who tries to protect his men, Ben Chaplin as a G.I. haunted by lyrical memories of his wife. The backbone of the film is the ongoing discussion between a wry sergeant (Sean Penn) and an ethereal, almost holy private (newcomer Jim Caviezel). The picture's sprawl may be a result of Malick's method of "finding" ...
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