pynchonikon’s review published on Letterboxd:
As a huge fan of the 1998 version, it is strange that i didn't search the first adaptation of Henry James' book until recently. James himself blessed this version expressing his admiration for the result, and it is a really interesting movie on its own indeed. Although, i think that any kind of comparison between the two films make no justice for the original, and not only for technical reasons.
Keir Dullea, despite of generally being known as an actor who gave wooden performances (one of the reasons he was chosen by Kubrick for the lead of the monumental Space Odyssey, i assume), is pretty solid on the role of an emotionally damaged soldier, who hates killing and wants to return home as soon as possible. There are also several good fight scenes in landscapes and staff, and some universal messages concerning the war and its lack of point ("it's just meat"). Jack Warden has a considerably bigger part of dialogue and screen time than Sean Penn in Malick's movie on the same role, though i don't think he manages to give a really compelling character (despite the big moments he has), as you can't really get into his motivations or his way of thinking.
Every other aspect of the movie is definetely minor to the newest version. There are four or five scenes that are common in both films, and Malick improves every scene both in direction and the actors' performances. James Philbrook and Ray Daley don't have the charisma of Nick Nolte and Elias Koteas, whose electrifying scenes were some of the best in any war film in general. Of course Malick's direction plays on another level and that's why i said in the beginning that there's no reason to compare the two versions. But i wrote all these because i was quite surprised when i found out how many people actually prefered Andrew Marton' movie over Malick's. I can't argue that the 1998 film is a really demanding experience for audiences who want to see a straight and speedy war film, but let's just say this; 1964 movie is the work of a very good film student, 1998 movie is the work of a professional artist.