The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red Line ★★★★

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Metacritic Metascore: 78
IMDB: 7.6


Viewing Platform: Amazon Prime
Release Date: 15 January 1999
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
Budget: $52M
Worldwide Gross: $98.1M
Oscar Nominations: 7

April 2020
Amazon Ranked

Japanese Soldier: "Are you righteous? Kind? Does your confidence lie in this? Are you loved by all? Know that I was, too. Do you imagine your suffering will be any less because you loved goodness and truth?"

SYNOPSIS: Adaptation of James Jones' autobiographical 1962 novel, focusing on the conflict at Guadalcanal during the second World War.
- Source: IMDb 

The Thin Red Line, directed by Terrence Malick, is a film that fictionalizes the Battle of Mount Austen: a violent confrontation between American soldiers and the Imperial Japanese, taking place during World War II. The Thin Red Line has an impressive lineup of stars including Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, Elias Koteas, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, George Clooney, just to name a few. Although the film doesn't exactly specify who the main protagonist is, Jim Caviezel and Sean Penn share the most screen time and ultimately steal the show along with Nick Nolte.

TRIVIA: Most of Adrien Brody's scenes were cut from the film without his consent and he wasn't aware of these changes until he saw the film at the premiere. Brody came to the premiere expecting to see himself as the lead character and was shocked when he saw that he was barely featured in the film, especially since Cpl. Fife was the central character in the novel on which the movie was based.

The film opens in the most un-war-like of fashions; with a voice-over accompanied montage of all things beautiful as Witt mingles with some Pacific region natives on an island set away from the war and its brutality. It doesn't plunge the viewer into the forefront of battle alá Saving Private Ryan or Apocalypse Now with some beach landings or a Napalm bombing, but instead a relaxed, almost cathartic setting. For better or for worse, this is an opening set away from not only firefights and bombing raids but the war and the warfare area itself. Although interestingly, like some of the above examples; it accompanies its imagery with some soft, instrumental and somewhat classical music.

TRIVIA: Terrence Malick's unconventional filming techniques included shooting part of a scene during a bright, sunny morning only to finish it weeks later at sunset. He made a habit of pointing the camera away during an action sequence and focus on a parrot, a tree branch or other fauna.

The one thing that sets The Thin Red Line apart from other contemporary war films is its philosophical viewpoint. All throughout the film, there are voice-overs (from Caviezel's and Nick Nolte's characters in particular), that talk about the meaning of life and death, the origin of love, and the capricious violence of nature. These voice-overs soften the blow of the on-screen violence and accompanied by the gorgeous cinematography of the rainforests of Queensland, Australia, plus Hans Zimmers's uniquely beautiful score, the film focuses on the consequences, aftermath and the emotion of the violence we see, rather than the barbarity itself.

TRIVIA: Hans Zimmer's score would influence the direction his style would take for the rest of his career. Many directors (especially Christopher Nolan) would employ him based on their love for the film and the desire for its similar ambiance, specifically based on the track "Journey to the Line". Ironically, with the exception of "Journey to the Line", most of Zimmer's score did not make the final cut. What was used was often sampled with various other music chosen by Terrence Malick to create an intricate work that is very often mistakenly credited to Zimmer.

There are a number of other aspects that are to The Thin Red Line's great credit as well; firstly, the fact the film manages to sustain a distinct level of intensity following these Guadacanal landings, and the instances of one's mental and physical endurance being pushed. Secondly, the film's multi-equilibrium approach of detailing a central character's decline in marital status is handled well enough that it doesn't detract from the ongoing pain and suffering of the war as a whole unfolding around him and everyone else. The film is of the slow-burning, but ultimately rewarding variety - Malick takes each step as it comes; dealing with fear, desperation, desertion and the lust for glory in an observed and timely fashion, the likes of which we should relish given the current rarity of films from its particular genre.

Director: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Filming Locations: Queensland, Australia
Filming Locations: Solomon Islands
Based on a novel: Thin Red Line - James Jones

Some of the philosophical passages may become tiresome, and at times it seems that they're just trying to confuse you with eloquent language and abstract ideas. This is justified by the strong, authentic performances from its stars (Caviezel in particular), and the engaging dialect between the soldiers. This is a visually stunning, decidedly human epic that stops just before it becomes too much.

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Fact-Checking / TRIVIA Source: IMDb

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