The Thin Red Line Reviews
The pacing of The Thin Red Line I think could be best described as herky-jerky. It goes long stretches where nothing of relevance is happening other than soliloquies intermingled with images of trees, past love affairs, and more artsy-fartsy film school nonsense. Then, just when I'm about to fall asleep, we are thrust into battle and we get to see the soldiers act like real people, and start fighting a vicious battle trying to overtake a bunker or something like that. The big problem with the structure of Malick's films is that ethereal voices and a handful of random short flashbacks do not create character. So it's not long before I realized that I didn't care about any of the people who are getting gunned down because I don't KNOW any of them. There are loads of familiar faces in the cast, some really spectacular actors, but that's not enough to make me see any of their characters as real people. The closest I came was with Jim Caviezel because his character was set up early and almost had an arc, but even his death didn't quite resonate for me (perhaps the boredom had overwhelmed me at that point.) It's such a shame because there are snippets of time when The Thin Red Line is stunning and could be remarkably powerful, but Malick can't tell a consistent story because he has to attempt to make every moment deep and profound. If you tolerate Malick's particular brand of film-making then this movie is right up your alley, but for most movie fans I'd say avoid at all costs.
With The Thin Red Line, I did not know what to expect in terms of storytelling. I figured that it would be a rather large scale war film due to its large budget, the big ensemble cast and the fact that it runs for a total of 171 minutes. Of course as I expected, this also meant that it succumbed to a slow pace. Although the pace of the film is rather organic and it does not feel as if it is rushing anywhere, The Thin Red Line moves along very slowly at a pace which may end up fazing some viewers.
Occasionally, it feels as if The Thin Red Line jumps back and forth between the bigger picture and the smaller picture. The Thin Red Line is an ambitious challenge for Terrence Malick because it intends to be bother a big scale focus on World War II and one that focuses deeply on a large group of characters. This is a challenge that filmmakers can rarely get right, but Terrence Malick adopts his own way of doing it. In The Thin Red Line, the focus is on the characters during battle which it manages to get right. It shows how they deal with the harsh reality of the situation both physically and mentally, and it ranges from depicting the fighting soldiers to the people giving the orders and how all of them reluctantly contribute to the battle. But it can be a little overwhelming because there are a lot of characters to remember which can get somewhat confusing as well as the fact that the bigger picture of the war is not explained all that much. The Thin Red Line is one of those movies that assumes you have an understanding of everything that is happening before seeing the movie, but as I was not specifically familiar with what part of the war the film was depicting, I walked away from it rather confused. The story itself is not confusing, but the large quantity of characters combined with the lack of sufficient historical context in the story ends up rendering it a rather confusing film in certain retrospects. I don't know what the characters in The Thin Red Line were fighting for, but when you look into it neither did half the characters so the film is able to play that off well. But it boils down to if the viewer finds the film to be organically paced or just plain slow. I felt a bit of both, and I found that the film had certain poetic messages in it yet the pace of the film unfolded quite a lot of repetition amongst the plotting. The Thin Red Line was an ok film in the end for me, but I found that it was too focused on attempting to characterise a lot of figures that it ended up only lightly touching upon all of them. This was not too bad as it reminded us just how many people were shattered by the horrors of WWII, but it didn't end up being as deep as it wanted to be and so the focus for the film was a little scattered all over the place in the end. The characters in the film were good, but the narrative ended up being poor as a whole. All in all, The Thin Red Line didn't have too much of a great story to tell, but a lot of characters to tell it with and so it is an imperfect, slow and long film.
The scenery of the film is brilliant. Even though The Thin Red Line was shot in Queensland, Australia, it is completely convincing as having a South Pacific setting. It has a certain level of colour, but the war atmosphere of the film makes it all feel grim and dirty. But more importantly, it is captured with genuinely amazing cinematography. The cinematography in The Thin Red Line is excellent because of how it captures the facial expressions of the characters, the landscape of the setting and the feel of the battle all at once. The Thin Red Line is full of strong visual elements which establish the setting of the film and the timeframe, and it constantly ensures that things in the story feel rather genuine while rendering the film a good visual experience.
The talents of the ensemble cast do manage to contribute some success to the film.
Jim Caviezel is the standout in The Thin Red Line. Capturing the troubled nature of a soldier lost in the insane mentality of war, Jim Caviezel turns in a performance which is easy to sympathise for. He delivers his lines as if he has serious internal pain and emotional trauma, and he goes into a state of stoicism which is great. Jim Caviezel gives a performance which essentially reflects a turning point for his career in The Thin Red Line. Jim Caviezel is intense and powerful in his performance which is restrained and yet strong, and delivers his lines with strength and physical emotions well.
Nick Nolte also turns in a screen stealing performance. In the role of Lt. Col. Gordon Tail, Nick Nolte injects in a lot of powerful and intense line delivery into his role which has him gripping the character with powerful tenacity, and so his presence in The Thin Red Line shows off some of his most powerful acting skills. The Thin Red Line is a powerful depiction of Nick Nolte's acting skills, and so his casting is one of the best assets of the film.
Woody Harrelson's supporting performance is a grim and intense one. Although it is small and brief, he manages to make an impact with his short presence in The Thin Red Line. John Travolta, George Clooney and John Cusack all turn in small roles very nicely as well.
So while The Thin Red Line suffers from an abundance of ambition, a lack of context and some convoluted storytelling, it remains a realistically violent and well acted depiction of war which has certain importance in the underlying messages.
(Full review TBD)
Unlike his most recent attempts where Malick seems to forget how to movie and ends up more as a "meh" poet, The Thin Red Line is a layered film with a massive cast and some of the greatest war moments war cinema has ever seen that even if it seems to lack an objective beyond its philosophical aspects, it is turly a story to care for and something that Malick shouldnt have forgotten how to do.