Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

The Thin Red Line (1998)

Directed by Terrence Malick

Starring Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas


Supposedly, Mallick shot over a million feet of film for this movie. I think most of it made its way into the final cut. Excruciatingly long and slow.

An impressionaistic look at the philosophy and hypocrisy of war. War poetry. No comparison to Saving Private Ryan. They are both totally different kinds of movies. Saving Private Ryan revelled in the gruesome moment, while this film shied away from the gruesome in favor of more philosophical and metaphorical ponderings. Time after time, we leave the battlefield to take a photographic excursion to consider the beauty and innocence of the world around us. Very much like Forest of Bliss in that sense. Some beautiful photography, just too much of it. A few shots right out of Platoon.

Virtually no story. Just a few episodes and action sequences which don’t connect that well. Melancholy is the only constant. At times the film seems like an anthropological documentary, giving us an extended look at how the natives normally lead their lives. Though few and far between, the action sequences are good, right up there with Saving Private Ryan.

No central characters to follow or character development. Chock full of movie stars, but too little screen time for each. We have the “Steven Segal in Executive Decision” problem. In addition, all the stars end up “competing” for screen time and for our attention. We don’t know who to love or hate, who to follow or ignore. While we want so badly to become attached to one of the stars and watch him change and grow for the duration of the movie, we are never given that privilege. The stars also get cheated of delivering the great performances that they would certainly be capable of (except for Travolta) with more screen time and a better story line. Nolte gave perhaps the best, most engaging performance. The redneck Jesus character was particularly annoying, giving every little kid or dying soldier a pathetic, teary-eyed half-smile before crying for our sins. Why is he the only one who gets a grave? Does everyone think this poetically and this philosophically on the battlefield?

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