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The Thin Red Line (1998)

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  • Written by JakeBlues on 22.06.2012


    Terrence Malick's cinema is not for everyone.
    His slow rhythms, long shots and culturally elevated themes, the rarefied atmospheres of his movies can be boring for many viewers.
    Somehow, a Terrence Malick movie is like reading a poem: if you're only used to read bestsellers and popular fiction, you might quickly fall asleep while watching one of his films.

    On the other hand, if your taste is sophisticated and you like a deep, lyrical scan of the human nature, you'll love this movie, as all Terrence Malick's movies.

    The Thin Red Rine, an adaptation of a James Jones novel, took ten years in the making.
    This is normal to Malick, whose filmography is very short because of the biblical time always needed to complete each one of his movies.
    The incredible amount of work, by the way, is easily traceable once the viewer gets to sit down and enjoy one of his genial works.

    War, and war's effects to mankind, are the main themes of the movie, and it seemed a perfect choice for Malick to choose the Pacific Ocean's fights of War World II for his movie.
    Those places are in fact a paradise on earth, therefore the contrast between the incredibly beautiful and pristine naturalistic settings and the horrors of war is the recurring topic in The Thin Red Line.
    As known, Malick is an absolute master in depicting and filming naturalistic landscapes, and the magic tropical islands of the South Pacific allow the director to offer to his viewers some great shots.
    The first part of the movie presents a utopic society, a sort of Melanesian garden of Eden, where one of the main characters, Pvt. Witt (Jim Caiviezel), almost looses himself to.
    Everything of course changes when the rest of the U.S. Army enters in the equation, forcing Witt back to the crude reality of war.

    There's a particular scene that is somehow representative of the entire movie and its message.
    When the soldiers first land on the island of Guadalcanal, marching on their way to the battle zone, they meet a native islander who is walking on the opposite direction, passing by the soldiers.
    Everyone in the scene is part of the human race, but the cultural, ethnic differences between the soldiers and the local man are so wide, that it seems like two different, parallel universes meet in that specific place, with no comprehensible contact possible between the two.
    The islander in fact simply passes by, without even looking or caring about the soldiers and their war.
    To me, that is one of the greatest scenes ever filmed in the history of cinema, representing how the evolution of human society not only brought human kind to great achievements and improvements, but also to a moral decadence, perfectly represented by the capacity to wage war on a global scale, bringing destruction everywhere, including remote, pristine and virgin places like the South Pacific islands.

    Besides the direction (every Terrence Malick movie is a Terrence Malick movie first, and everything else is peripheral to that), under the acting point of view, The Thin Red Line is a choral movie.
    It's rare to find a similar amount of great actors in a single movie: everybody is in fact always enthusiastic about the possibility to work with this great director.
    In addition to the already mentioned Jim Caviezel, we find performances by actors like Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, George Clooney, John Travolta, Adrien Brody and John C. Reilly.
    Every single one of them has a different approach to war, a different story to tell to the viewer, a different impact on the plot and on the declaration against war that the movie is about.
    Every performance is shiny and convincing, in my opinion Caviezel, Penn and Nolte depicting the most memorable characters in this movie.

    Almost three hours long, this epic piece of cinema will hit you in the heart and stay with you forever.

    When I think about the horrors, the nonsense of war, my first thought always goes to the (initially) bucolic, windy hill of the main battle of the movie, and that fantastic, silent and brilliantly green tall grass: a paradise soon to be turned into hell by mankind.

    Again, to summarize the entire review in one single word: The thin red line is a true masterpiece.

The Thin Red Line Reviews