theriverjordan’s review published on Letterboxd:
Its been said that making a true anti-war film is an impossible task. Maybe so, but Terrence Malick in “Thin Red Line” created an astounding anti-war poem.
It’s fitting that “Line” seems to be the true beginning of where Malick almost entirely abandoned linear narrative in favor of freeform visual storytelling. War in art does not lend itself to cohesiveness.
There is no central character to “Line;” rather, Malick first asserting a thesis he carries on in later work — we are all one. It’s a high ask to adapt, let alone introduce, that concept to a movie set during the gruesome combat of WWII’s Pacific theatre.
While Malick was criticized, perhaps with grounds, for the parade of celebrity ‘cameos’ in “Line;” from John Travolta to John Cusack and even Jared Leto - it’s a sensible choice to force viewers to immediately connect with each soldier. The story of “Line” doesn’t belong to one man, but is instead a figurative ode to the collective humanity of them all - and the loss of it in war.
That won’t make “Line” a work that is immediately appealing or accessible to many... and they have grounds for their dismissal. “Line” is less a depiction of war, than it is one artist’s personal interpretation of war’s spiritual blight on the souls of men.