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The Thin Red Line

Released: 1998

Genre: War

Runtime: 3 hr 0 min

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Terrence Malick

Starring: Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel, Ben Chaplin, John Cusack, Elias Koteas, Nick Nolte, John Savage, Sean Penn, George Clooney, Woody Harrelson

Terrence Malick war epic about soldiers on Guadalcanal.

Rapturous collage of sights and sounds.

Review by: MiamiMovieCritic

Added: 8 years ago

This is my favorite war movie of all time, and I’m well aware that it bores many people to tears. You need to approach it with different expectations. It doesn’t function as an action picture, though the battle scenes are arguably the greatest and most astonishingly choreographed I’ve ever seen. And it doesn’t dwell on the logistics of war, though the middle hour is about the taking of a hill. Rather, this is an existentialist drama about God and man’s place in the universe whose characters happen to be wearing uniforms and carrying guns. If you’re in the right mood and you let its rapturous collage of sights and sounds wash over you, it offers the most poetic viewing experience imaginable.

Which is to be expected, given that it was directed by Terrence Malick. Made after a 20-year hiatus from the filmmaking world, The Thin Red Line is superior to Badlands and Days of Heaven (and to Malick’s fleetingly brilliant follow-up, The New World). I admire Badlands (which heavily influenced Tarantino’s True Romance), but I’ve never been able to make it all the way through Days of Heaven without falling asleep. I’m sure the same is true for many people who try to watch The Thin Red Line, but for me this is the one where it all comes together: the voiceover, the acting, the jaw-dropping shots of nature, and the worldview that Eden has been lost forever.

My favorite scenes in the movie are between Jim Caviezel and Sean Penn. Caviezel’s role as the Christ-like Private Witt has been only slightly ruined by his role in that Mel Gibson snuff film, The Passion of the Christ. The Thin Red Line isn’t for everyone, but I find myself getting lost in its utter beauty every time I watch it.