The Thin Red Line Reviews
The film was based on the book by James Jones, who also wrote From Here To Eternity, and the screenplay was written by Terrence Malick. I have not read the novel so I cannot say whether or not this film is accurate or that it approaches the same way that the film does. Malick's screenplay on the other hand is a hit or miss for me. There are moments that are brilliant and definitely makes it stand out against the other WWII films, but there are also aspects of the screenplay that didn't just work with me. The main issue that I have with this film is that it is too introspective, which I don't mind as long as there is an interesting plot to drive when the voice overs are not present. A little over half of the film is driven by a main plot but then the last hour and 20 minutes is more of self-reflection and each main character's perspective of the situation. The screenplay contains themes of faith, life, death, war, peace, love, sacrifice and family. It may seem too much but each theme is very much interrelated and one dialogue from a character could sometimes be ambiguous that it could mean this or that. I wish that the last half of the film can hold up the intensity and depth that the first half did.
Terrence Malick's direction in this film feel so incoherent and erratic. At one moment intensity occurs but then it just slows down all of a sudden. It isn't as bad as it was in my first viewing but it did still bother me a little during my revisit. This disjointed feeling does throw me off at times but at the same time it makes the film different and unique from the other war films that this film is generally compared to. True, sometimes I do wish that it does have that excitement and physical intensity of a film like Saving Private Ryan but at the same time I wish other war films had this deep and self-critical view of the war and it's soldiers. His work here may not be perfect and far from his magnum opus, The Tree of Life, but it has grown and improved on me that I am now confident in coming back to this film knowing that it has this great quality that other films don't.
The film's photography was handled by John Toll, worked on films like Braveheart, Tropic Thunder, The Last Samurai and The Adjustment Bureau. Malick is a director who loves natural photography exposing the beauty in nature and the use of natural light to fill the scene. I am one of those who come into a Malick film expecting beautiful photography but this film just doesn't get up there, this is due to the fact that I have seen Malick's work with Emmanuel Lubezki and the films they do together are breathtakingly gorgeous. Toll's work here may not rank up with Lubezki's but it does get the job done. There is still beauty in his photography, the scenes in the hill in particular, and it does still get the job done when it comes to putting Malick's script in picture. Toll's photography is much deeper in my opinion than Lubezki's, and it makes sense given that this film is more about experience and feelings rather than plot and visceral focused. I do wish that it was more surrealistic but I guess that it's just asking too much as the film's setting and plot is quite grounded to reality.
The film's score was composed by Hans Zimmer. Before when I just started to really care about films, I used to think Hans Zimmer is the greatest film composer of all time but as time went on I have been exposed to the works of other composers who can rival his work. Not to say that Zimmer is now crap to me but I just started to see the areas in his work that I consider as faults. Zimmer's score for The Thin Red Line is great, it does what it does and it is able to get an emotional response from the audience. However there are moments that I felt needed a little more emotional kick from his score as the situation felt grand and important. Also I picked up that his works on multiple films have a similar sound, or at least a trademark of sorts. This kind of disappointed me as he could have given his later films a much more original style rather than coming back to what he has already used. His later works still are effective though for those films. Do I think The Thing Red Line is his best work? I think not but it is definitely nowhere near his worst.
The film's cast is extensive and bloated, in a good way. I don't mind that characters just all of a sudden come in and play a small role but there are multiple moments in the film that felt like the scene needed a little more time and a much more subtle way in introducing it's characters. Maybe it's due to the fact that Malick cut around 2 and a half of it's original running time. I did wish that the film did have a central character that we would follow for the most part and have little side moments with the others but what he has done with the final cut is good enough. The entire cast in this film were great, they took their roles to heart and gave it their all. This made the film much more believable and also made the introspection aspect of it much more interesting than what it already is. Stand out performances include Caviezel, Nolte, Harrelson, Koteas, Chaplin and Otto.
This maybe the favorite of the general audience when it comes to Malick's work but for me it just didn't hit that mark. This may grow on me further on subsequent viewings but for now I can only say that this is good war film that deserves to be watched at least once as it has a large cast, great photography, a moving score and interesting direction from Malick.
A fantastic tense and thrilling ride. But also with moments of beauty and peace, showing how beautiful nature is in all of it's raw form and how beautiful human nature can be when we all just get along and don't have to fight with one another. This movie touches a lot on the subject of human nature, doing good in the world, and how death could be for some of us.