The Thin Red Line


The Thin Red Line

Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 98


Audience Score

User Ratings: 148,582
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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 duty unit preparing for what will be the Battle of Guadalcanal. As Witt goes ashore in the company of his fellow soldiers, they meet diverse fates. Sergeant Keck (Woody Harrelson) is killed by an exploding grenade. Captain John Gaff (John Cusack) is an intelligent, sober leader facing the destruction of his command because his commanding officer Colonel Tall (Nick Nolte) is bucking for a general's star. Sergeant McCron (John Savage) loses his mind. Private Bell (Ben Chaplin) gets a "Dear John" letter from his beloved wife. However, as the U.S. troops advance up grassy slopes toward entrenched Japanese positions, it is Witt's voiced-over ruminations on life, death, and nature that are the real heart and soul of The Thin Red Line (1998). Adrien Brody appears as Private Fife, the major character of Jones' novel and the author's alter-ego, although Fife has been relegated to a minor supporting role by Malick's filmed adaptation. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

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Jim Caviezel
as Pvt. Witt
Ben Chaplin
as Pvt. Jack Bell
Elias Koteas
as Capt. James Bugger Staros
Sean Penn
as First Sgt. Edward Welsh
Nick Nolte
as Lt. Col. Gordon Tall
Adrien Brody
as Cpl. Fife
George Clooney
as Capt. Charles Bosche
John Cusack
as Capt. John Graf
Woody Harrelson
as Sgt. Keck
Jared Leto
as Second Lt. Whyte
Dash Mihok
as Pfc. Doll
Tim Blake Nelson
as Pvt. Tills
John C. Reilly
as Sgt. Storm
Larry Romano
as Pvt. Mazzi
John Savage
as Sgt. McCron
Matt Doran
as Coombs
Don Harvey
as Becker
Gordon MacDonald
as Gordon/Earl
Felix Williamson
as Private Drake
Ben Hines
as Assistant Pilot
Kirk Acevedo
as Kirk/Guide
Randall Duk Kim
as Nisei Interpreter
Thomas Jane
as Pvt. Ash
Penelope Allen
as Witt's Mother
as Melanesian Villager
Simon Billig
as Lt. Col. Billig
Mark Boone Jr.
as Pvt. Peale
Ken Mitsuishi
as Japanese Officer No.1
Kazuki Maehara
as Japanese Pvt. No.1
Tomohiro Tanji
as Japanese Pvt. No.2
Kouji Suzuki
as Japanese Pvt. No.3
Ryushi Mizukami
as Japanese Pvt. No.4
Terutake Tsuji
as Japanese Pvt. No.5
Taiju Okayasu
as Japanese Pvt. No.6
Hiroya Sugisaki
as Japanese Pvt. No.7
Kengo Hasuo
as Japanese Prisoner
Kazuyoshi Sakai
as Japanese Prisoner No.2
Takamitsu Okubo
as Japanese Soldier
Minoru Toyoshima
as Japanese Sgt.
Masayuki Shida
as Japanese Officer No.2
Joe Watanabe
as Japanese Officer No.3
Dan Wylie
as First Medic
Simon Lyndon
as Second Medic
Michael McGrady
as Pvt. Floyd
Miranda Otto
as Marty Bell
Steven Vidler
as Second Lt. Gore
Yasoumi Yoshino
as Young Japanese
Jack Warden
as Melanesian Walking Man
as Melanesian Villager
Polyn Leona
as Melanesian Woman with child
as Melanesian Guide
Joshua Augwata
as Melanesian Extra
John Augwata
as Melanesian Extra
John Bakotee
as Melanesian Extra
Immanuel Dato
as Melanesian Extra
Michael Iha
as Melanesian Extra
Emmunual Konai
as Melanesian Extra
Stephen Konai
as Melanesian Extra
Peter Morosiro
as Melanesian Extra
Amos Niuga
as Melanesian Extra
Jennifer Siugali
as Melanesian Extra
Carlos Tome
as Melanesian Extra
Selina Tome
as Melanesian Extra
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Critic Reviews for The Thin Red Line

All Critics (98) | Top Critics (27)

Audience Reviews for The Thin Red Line

  • May 06, 2014
    In contrast to Saving Private Ryan created during the same year, Malick takes us to WWII as an observer and does not throw us in the middle of battle. Using distraction techniques, it allows the viewer to see humanity in chaos from a distance.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 16, 2012
    "The Thin Red Line" is very long, yes, but that's not even one of the film's biggest problems. No, what really harms it in the long run is the fact that we never quite develop a relationship with any of the characters. Instead, we just hover from one to another without ever really knowing anything about them. John Toll's cinematography is spellbinding and unforgettable and Terrence Malick directs some very daring battle sequences, but it's the film's lack of depth that ends up hurting it. That's not saying that "The Thin Red Line" is boring. Quite the contrary, actually. It's tense, invigorating stuff that had me pretty involved. But in the end, it just isn't as memorable as it should be.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer
  • May 06, 2012
    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.
    paul s Super Reviewer
  • Mar 11, 2012
    Philosophical auteur Terrence Malick might not be the kind of filmmaker you'd expect to tackle a war movie, but once you've seen The Thin Red Line, you won't be able to imagine it in anyone else's hands. The wandering narrative, stunning photography, and outstanding cast make this an unforgettable cinematic journey. A one-of-a-kind genre film from a one-of-a-kind artist
    Tedd P Super Reviewer

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