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The Thin Red Line (1998)

tomatometer

79

Average Rating: 7.2/10
Reviews Counted: 90
Fresh: 71 | Rotten: 19

The Thin Red Line is a daringly philosophical World War II film with an enormous cast of eager stars.

92

Average Rating: 7.5/10
Critic Reviews: 25
Fresh: 23 | Rotten: 2

The Thin Red Line is a daringly philosophical World War II film with an enormous cast of eager stars.

audience

80

liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 146,338

My Rating

Movie Info

The return of director Terrence Malick to feature filmmaking after a twenty year sabbatical, this World War II drama is an elegiac rumination on man's destruction of nature and himself, based on James Jones' semi-autobiographical novel, his follow-up to From Here to Eternity. James Caviezel stars as Private Witt, a deserter living in peace and harmony with the natives of a Pacific island paradise. Captured by the Navy, Witt is debriefed by a senior officer (Sean Penn) and returned to an active

R,

Drama, Action & Adventure

Terrence Malick

Nov 2, 1999

20th Century Fox - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (113) | Top Critics (29) | Fresh (71) | Rotten (19) | DVD (38)

It's a genuinely epic ciné-poem that essentially sidesteps history, politics and conventional ethics to deal with war as an absolute, inevitable and eternal facet of existence.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

At two hours and 45 minutes, The Thin Red Line gives ample evidence of suffering all manner of cuts, if not having been simply hacked into its final shape. But this violence only adds to the movie's brave, strange, eroded nobility.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Fascinating!

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A complex, highly talented work marked by intellectual and philosophical ambitions!

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One of the most harrowing of anti-war statements, and the most beautiful too.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Mezzanine
Movie Mezzanine

Lyrical, meditative and original, Malick's WWII film is one of the best war films ever made.

May 6, 2012 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

Though it is not only a great war film, perhaps not even primarily a great war film, it is assuredly a great war film.

June 8, 2011 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

...so gorgeous it feels as if it's being seen through heavenly eyes - at least until fresh hell rips across the screen.

May 13, 2011 Full Review Source: LarsenOnFilm
LarsenOnFilm

Ultimately concerned less with specific tactical maneuvers or combat suffering than with the grand contradictions of life.

May 11, 2011 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

The Thin Red Line's hallucinatory blend of images defines the very essence of cinema.

April 20, 2011 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

... one of the richest and lushest films ever to emerge from Hollywood.

April 30, 2007 Full Review Source: Seattle Weekly
Seattle Weekly

The Thin Red Line would have been infinitely more successful without the frequent rest-stops full of mental malaise and philosophical pretense.

June 27, 2005 Full Review Source: DVDTalk.com | Comments (4)
DVDTalk.com

It makes you think and ask questions. Its characters contradict themselves, talking one way, acting another. And it ends abruptly, with many things unresolved. Like life.

January 15, 2005 Full Review Source: Looking Closer | Comment (1)
Looking Closer

Won't be a commercial hit, but it will rank at the top of my list of best movies of 1998.

June 28, 2004 Full Review Source: Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)

Malick transforms James Jones' two-fisted prose into visual poetry.

June 19, 2003 Full Review
Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)

...a film of sublime power and beautiful tedium.

December 8, 2002 Full Review
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

A frustrating return to the screen of one of American film's most distinctive and challenging geniuses.

March 24, 2002 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix | Comment (1)
Boston Phoenix

The visionary quality of the film and the exotic cinematography of John Toll make this a most impressive and unusual work of art.

March 3, 2002 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

Perhaps the movie's final, lasting image embraces all we know: From the mud grows the lotus.

April 8, 2001
Movie Metropolis

far more interested in juxtaposing the beauty of nature untamed and the harsh destruction of mankind at war than ... telling a story or developing characters

February 27, 2001
Q Network Film Desk

An amazing triumph that proves what a master Terrence Malick is at his craft.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: DustinPutman.com
DustinPutman.com

Audience Reviews for The Thin Red Line

Twenty years after making Days of Heaven, Terrence Malick emerged from hiding to write and helm this star-studded ensemble drama centered around the Battle of Guadalcanal during World War II.

And, true to form (for Malick, that is), this is and isn't a war film, or at least not entirely in the conventional sense. It's a war film on multiple levels, as we get man versus man, man versus nature, man versus himself, and perhaps a touch of nature versus nature as well. I can't remember. It's been a while since I've seen this.

I can't even begin to list the cast here, as it is quite long, but filled to the brim with man notable names. Some only appear for the briefest of moments, and others get quite a lot of screen time, even if they don't really say much, if anything at all.

As I've said before, Malick's films are all basically the same save for plot/story specifics and cast. They're all predominately shot (and shot superbly) outdoors, have great emphasis on visuals, lots of voice over narration, and are generally light on plot, but heavy on themes, going for a very abstract approach.

When the film does decide to be semi-conventional with things, it does a passable job with the history. Granted, it's mostly used as a backdrop for Malick's larger, broader, abstract picture, but it still maintains a level of care and knowledgeability of the subject and era.

If you like Malick, then this is a must see. If you favor artsy, visually stunning, but plot light dramas, then yeah, give it a look. If not, then you may want to watch something else.
October 8, 2013
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

The WWll Battle of Guadalcanal is merely a backdrop for a look at the nature of men at a time when true nature purportedly reveals itself. Elegantly sublime and respectful, her beautiful imagery shocking because of what it takes to make us see it: somebody's got to die. There are no real "stars" here either, only moments all too briefly passed with faces we only begin to glimpse and then they're gone, all of us on a scary ride to who knows where.
May 23, 2012
ApeneckFletcher

Super Reviewer

somehow this surrealistic rumination on nature (both phyical and psychological)manages to become the most real of war films. All of the grass level filming, where you can't really see the enemy... claustrophic and metaphoric at the same time. This is the zen of war - the film really puts you right there, letting you see all the casualties and conflicts and letting you decide which path you would take if you were "enlisted".

Fine performances abound, and I found Nick Nolte's Colonel Tall to be an awesome portrayal.

14 years have passed with this film, and I found it fun to see all the actors who just "show up" in cameo roles, like John Travolta and George Clooney.

My only real complaints about this film have to do with pacing and length. At 3 hours, there certainly was ample opportunity for some judicious editing (many a scene, especially the flashbacks and more surreal material, could have been shortened) - which would have given a tighter narrative; but even that wouldn't have covered the big "breather" that the film takes about 3/4 of the way through. After the hill is taken and Charly Co returns to base camp, the film loses all momentum dealing with the aftermath of the campaign, which makes the then repositioning of the company up river under new and incompetent command, seem a superflous tag - a feeling compounded by the sacrifice made by the film's narrator and "soul". Better if the film would have left out this portion of the film entirely and cut to the company leaving Guadacanal on the LCV.

Yet, in spite of these obvious missteps, the film is compelling, and its ruminations on the origin of evil and mankind's loss of harmony make this film a must see.
May 6, 2012
maxthesax
paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line is a complex, intense, intimate, humbling, moving, and powerful portrayal of war and the moral chaos of war. Although at times hard to follow the storyline, and hard to keep track of who is who and why they are doing what they are doing, The Thin Red Line is a captivating, beautifully shot and superbly acted war film.
February 16, 2012
Raymond Wieser

Super Reviewer

    1. Pvt. Bell: We... We together. One being. Flow together like water. Till I can't tell you from me. I drink you. Now... Now.
    – Submitted by Ben P (17 months ago)
    1. Pvt. Bell: My dear wife. You get something twisted out of your insides by all this blood, filth and noise. I want to stay changeless for you. I want to come back to you the man I was before. How do we get to those other shores? To those blue hills? Love--where does it come from? Who lit this flame in us? No war can put it out, conquer it. I was a prisoner. You set me free.
    – Submitted by Ben P (17 months ago)
    1. Lt. Col. Gordon Tall: All the sacrificed for me... Poured out like water on the ground. All I might have given for love's sake; too late. Dying. Slow as a tree.
    – Submitted by Josh R (2 years ago)
    1. Pvt. Witt: I remember mother when she was dyin'; all shrunk up and grey. I asked her if she was afraid... she just shook her head. I was afraid to touch the death I seen in her. I couldn't find nothin' beautiful or upliftin' about her goin' back to God. I heard people talk about immortality... But I ain't seen it. I wondered how it'd be when I died. What it'd be like to know that this breath now was the last one you was ever gonna draw... I just hope that I can meet it the same way she did. With the same... calm. Cause that's where it's hidden -- the immortality I hadn't seen.
    – Submitted by Josh R (2 years ago)
    1. Pvt. Witt: Are you righteous? Kind? Does your confidence lie in this? Are you loved by all? Know that I was, too. Do you imagine your sufferings will be less because you loved goodness? Truth?
    – Submitted by Jim B (2 years ago)
    1. Pvt. Witt: One man looks at a dying bird and thinks there's nothing but unanswered pain, that death's got the final word, it's laughing at him. Another man sees that same bird, feels the glory, feels something smiling through it.
    – Submitted by James W (2 years ago)
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Foreign Titles

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  • La Ligne rouge (FR)
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