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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Thin Red Line [1999] [DVD]
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 2 March 2015
One of the most gripping and poignant war films ever made, The Thin Red Line provides food for thought as well as for the eyes. It tells the story of a group of American soldiers in WWII trying to take control of an island from the Japanese, but it also tells so much more. It speaks of the nature of life, both visually and through the interactions of the characters, not least with their Japanese counterparts.

There is a host of fine acting talent on display, from Sean Penn to Nick Nolte, from John Travolta to Woody Harrelson, from Adrian Brody to Jim Caviezel, from John Cusack to Miranda Otto. Their abilities are matched by a fine script and directing, both courtesy of Terrence Malick.

This is potent cinema, containing the power to provoke thought and to move the viewer. There are contemplative moments and violent action, both accentuated by being juxtaposed with each other. There are intercuts of nature simply being as we blow each other to pieces over a piece of land. There is the contrast between modern man and a more primitive existence. Basically, there is so much to explore in this movie that a simple Amazon review just can't do it justice. A truly profound film.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2014
The perfect gift for all movie enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

What's it like to be lying in the middle of an unfamiliar jungle with birds singing around you, the sun making it's way through the trees to lightly shine on the guy next to you, dying of a bullet wound to the gut, knowing you will be next if you get up and run towards the gunfire as you were just told to do? In that moment, what are you thinking of? Your wife who is probably making dinner right now? Dying alone in this godforsaken place with nothing but terrible pain and blue skies, and no one to hear your last words? Do you check that you have morphine? Isn't it absurd that this blade of grass in front of you will still be there next week but you will not? Are you so angry at them that you want to just run in their direction and kill every single one of them? How did you get here? What's this all about, this destruction?

The Thin Red Line is every war picture ever made.

It is the universal story of the soldier.
It is the story of the frightened soldier, the courageous one, the one who questions and the one who doesn't.
It is the story of the private who obeys, the captain who leads and the Lt Colonel who commands.
It is the story of the soldier who protects the POW, the one who reaches out to him, the one who ridicules him and the one who kills him.
It is the story of the soldier who re-enlists, the one who defects, the one who goes home and the one who has no home to go to.

It is the universal story of war.
It is the story of a battle that must be won at all costs, and the battle that costs too much.
It is the story of the environment of war, it's natural beauty, its obstacles in battle and its rewards.
It is the story of the people who live in that environment and the effects of the war on them.

It is the universal story of man.
It is the story of man's reflection on his own purpose.
It is the story of man facing death.
It is the story of man making sense of the world.

The Thin Red Line is the timeless story of every man's humanity, every man's "spark".
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76 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2011
This is by no means a conventional war film but it is, nonetheless, one of the finest portrayals of war that you are ever likely to see. The film was not on my radar and I discovered it more by accident than design. It was first released in 1998 and was somewhat eclipsed by `Saving Private Ryan' which was released slightly earlier. Nominated for 7 Academy Awards this film failed to get a single Oscar. The more that I learn about the way these award systems operate and the complexities of the whole film distribution system, the less confidence I have of their value. In many ways `the Thin Red Line' is superior to Spielberg's war epic.

Directed by the reclusive Terrence Malick, the film is an adaptation of a World War II novel by James Jones (From Here to Eternity) about the battle for Guadalcanal. American soldiers land on the island hoping to secure it from the Japanese. This film does not follow the usual path taken by other war stories and unlike `Ryan' - which begins explosively, this film takes about 40 minutes before a single shot is fired! This long prologue is used to good effect as an introduction to the main characters and some carefully selected flashbacks to their lives pre-war. The tension to the film is slowly uncoiled as the troopships approach Guadalcanal Island. This is done quietly and thoughtfully and gives the viewer a good idea of the stresses and anxieties of the soldiers as they approach this life-changing situation.

The story is told through the eyes of 5 men of C Company and the visual images are simply amazing. This is where Malick excels. He has produced a film that is a cinematographer's dream where almost every shot is carefully composed as if it was to be entered in a photographic exhibition. I watched the film in the newly restored Blu-ray version and the video is absolutely fantastic with superb colour palette and pristine sharp pictures throughout. I watched this dvd through a projector and the video quality is one of the finest I have ever seen - and that includes some pretty stiff competition.

Of course, there have been many fine war films and who am I to say whether this film is better than `Saving Private Ryan', `Apocalypse Now' or the Oliver Stone Trilogy. It is certainly up there with the very best and for my money it is sufficiently unique to stand out from the crowd. All human characteristics are shown in this film, bravery, fear, uncertainty, blind ambition to name but a few. However, for me the overwhelming image is of the chaos of war and uncertainty of such a fast moving situation. For a lot of the time the enemy cannot be seen and with explosions and gunfire all around you it is not difficult to imagine casualties caused by friendly fire. It is havoc and the film graphically shows the toll that all this takes on soldiers both in terms of exhaustion - both mental and physical, pain, injury, disillusionment and ultimately death.

However, notwithstanding this reality the film is much, much more than this. I found the violence less graphic than in Ryan and the director takes efforts not to dwell on unnecessary gratuitous violent images. This film is very much a visual, as well as a vocal poem. The film uses hauntingly beautiful music throughout both by the highly talented Hans Zimmer and also by other classical composers. Early on in the film there is an extract from `In paradisum' from Faure's Requiem. This beautiful piece of music is used in a water scene and the combined effect of the music and cinematography is simply amazing. There are many other scenes where the camera is used in taking shots from unusual angles and this gives an enhanced effect to the scene as is the case when a young woman is swinging on a child's swing. Poetry in motion!

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and it is magnificent. There are a number of excellent extras on this film including an interesting actors perspective and an interview with Hans Zimmer - both in high definition. I have not yet had time to look at the other extras.

This is a truly wonderful film. Highly recommended,
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2012
This is a truly fantastic film.

More of a search into the human soul than your typical war film- instead master director Terrence Malick uses the setting of war, man's most destructive device, to explore the nature of mankind.

Hugely memorable and moving film, and one of my favourites. The acting is tremendous, the cinematography breathtaking and the score is Hans Zimmer's best to date.

If you want a film to make you reflect, I urge you to give this a chance to wow you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This another movie I haven't re-visited for some time (I bought the Import version
when released a while back) my previous viewing of the film was on the 'DVD'
format.
The film was a big-budget production, of around $52,000.000, among the lead cast
'Sean Penn' 'Adrien Brody' 'Jim Caviezel' 'Woody Harrelson' and 'Nick Nolte'
It tells the story of an 'American' military operation in 'Guadal-Canal' which is to
stop the 'Japanese' forces advance.
We follow the fortunes of a unit as they try to advance toward enemy positions, the
'Japanese' controlling the 'Jungle' and much of the high-ground on the Island.
They soon come under fire, casualties mounting, when an order is given to 'Captain
Staros' to take the hill by 'Lt Col Gordon Tall' he refuses, believing the cost would be
too high.
The film considered by many to be a classic, is indeed thought provoking with many
graphic sequences along with an in-depth insight into the 'emotional' strain of battle,
the fear, the concequences.
It certainly displays the horror from both sides of the divide, a harsh look at the theatre
of war.
The movie has been given a superb upgrade to the HD standard, superb picture and
sound quality.
Features included (I am not 100% certain that ''all'' the extras on board apply to the
region 'B' release, however I see no reason why it would be any different)
:Commentaries and interviews with both cast and crew.
; 14 minutes of outtakes (always popular)
: World War 2' Newsreel from 'Guatal-Canal' and the 'Solomon Islands'
: Melansian Chants'
: Original Theatrical trailer.
: With this Import it also includes an interesting 'Booklet'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 January 2014
So questions Jim Cavaziel's Private Witt in Terence Malick's epic 1998 film, in the aftermath of his unit's attack on Japanese forces during the battle for the Pacific island of Guadalcanal during WW2. With The Thin Red Line, Malick had returned to film-making after a 20-year break and whilst, for me, his film is not an entirely successful venture, it has many compelling moments of 'sublime' beauty and horror, all overlaid with Malick's trademark poetic (and frequently philosophical) touch. Indeed, Witt's quote, in which he is actually questioning humanity's place (or perhaps, value) in the world - given war's savagery - follows one such sequence of cinematic brilliance, as the private's unit overrun the village, as Hans Zimmer's haunting theme builds in volume and John Toll's camera (which is visceral and dynamic throughout) help to provide a truly mesmerising few minutes.

Of course, Malick's decision to return with a 'war film' (albeit imbued with his unmistakeable sensorial touch) was always going to provide a challenge, given the plethora of great 'anti-war' films already on the books - Kubrick's Paths Of Glory and Full Metal Jacket and Coppola's Apocalypse Now to name but three. And the man certainly gives it a good go - his 165-minute work being essentially one of three sections, topped and tailed by some reflective passages, which sandwich the film's hour-long centre-piece as, under the command of Nick Nolte's outstanding turn as the reckless, glory-seeking Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Tall, C-company attempt to 'take' a fortified Japanese hill-top bunker. Of course, this sort of thing has been done many times before in cinema, but Malick (and crew) deliver a brilliantly visceral and exciting sequence, during which (acting-wise) Elias Koteas shines as the concerned, self-doubting Captain James Staros, whose reluctance to undertake what he regards a 'impossible mission' puts him at odds with his superior.

Outside of the film's centre-piece Malick gives us a beautifully ironic opening as Jim Caviezel's (also excellent) AWOL Private Robert Witt is returned (forcibly) to his unit from his idyllic Melanesian island existence and sets the scene - of largely confusion and futility - for what is to follow by repeated (and probably overdone) voiceovers. His opening also sets up one of the film's key messages around the negative effects of war as, following the conflict (having come full circle), a young 'native' is reluctant to meet Witt's offered handshake. Similarly, Malick repeatedly contrasts the film's 'humanity' with the (external) forces of nature as (again, coming full circle) a crocodile is eventually `strapped up' - as well as including shots of butterflies, toucans, chickens, owls, bats, monkeys, etc.

In addition to Messrs. Koteas, Nolte and Caviezel (for me, the film's outstanding performances), the film also boasts Ben Chaplin, Sean Penn, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Adrien Brody and George Clooney in its (probably unnecessarily) star-studded cast, between them delivering fine turns (Chaplin, Penn) to mere cameos (Clooney). I found that the film was certainly overlong (by at least half an hour), but, at its best, was brilliant (poetic, poignant and, of course, tragic). Malick also delivers a poignant ending (albeit its tragic element is fairly predictable).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 March 2015
The war in the Pacific has been portrayed rather sparsely in the cinema, for various rather interesting reasons. Namely, the lack of familiarity with places such as Guadalcanal, where this film is set - it's just so much easier for the general public to relate to a movie about the war in Europe, plus, from the Japanese viewpoint, much of what happened was not portrayed in the news there. Then there is the more recent controversial accusations that, possibly, the attitude of each nation towards each other's troops was bordering on racism and rather too much (misguided) hatred based on myth.
In my quest to find an honest portrayal, I stumbled across this complete and utter gem. Sitting neatly in style somewhere between Apocalypse Now and Platoon, the film examines the psyche of man being placed in a completely alien land and asked to fight a mysterious, unknown opponent. Indeed, it takes around an hour before we see any Japanese soldiers in the film, and when we do, we see that they too are as ragged and scared as the American soldiers. No one wants to be here..
The cinematography is simply stunning; it's what you hope to see at every screening of every film you see - lovingly crafted, with simply perfect lighting and beautiful framing and stunning landscapes.
I think this might be the first film I've ever given five stars too.
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on 30 April 2014
Describing 'The Thin Red Line' as a 'war film' is a useful but inadequate shorthand for Terence Malick's remarkable picture. The battle for Guadalcanal during the Second World War may be the film's locus, but it is one that acts as a crucible for Malick to divine the spirit and explore the soul.

Whilst various voice-overs suggest that death is only a beginning or a point of transcendence, the film's battle scenes are visceral, intense and inglorious; soldiers are cut down and maimed as the camera dispassionately weaves its way through the bloodshed, barely lingering on a single battle-worn character. Contrasts such as these abounds in a film where there are no easy answers; war is at once alien and hard-wired; it divides and it unites; it determines and undoes.

These larger considerations dominate the film's philosophical drama. Voice-overs pose searching metaphysical questions as the camera ponderously captures exquisite prelapsarian landscapes. 'The Thin Red Line' celebrates that which is beautiful (the natural world, love, relationships) and does so with majesty and grace. Yet it does not shy away from addressing the contradictions in the matters it celebrates. Much is made of the way nature appears to contend with itself, the way love is transient as well as transcendental and the way relationships are forged and broken in appalling circumstances.

'The Thin Red Line' is not without its flaws. The large ensemble cast means that character development is sometimes left wanting and, on occasion, the homespun wisdom delivered in voice over can be testing.

But Malick is not a director used to concessions. The film is *his* vision - one either subdues themselves to it, or they do not. To do so is to immerse oneself in a profoundly moving emotional and intellectual exercise, which lingers long after the credits have rolled.
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I still remember when I saw this film in the cinema. Me and my boys came out and we were just silent and thinking, because that's what the film makes you do: think.

Although it's a war film with plenty of action scenes, it's more than just an action film. And even though Saving Private Ryan won all the plaudits, Spielberg is Britney Spears compared to Terrence Malik's John Coltrane. After all, Terrence Malick was a philosophy lecturer whereas Spielberg's greatest achievement is entertainment movies like ET and Indiana Jones.

The Thin Red Line brings out the strengths of Malick. War, risk of dying, forces you to ask big questions: How do I look at the world? Who do I really trust? Who do I really love? How do my personal ethics affect the reality I'm living? Each question has multiple answers. The film kind of revolves around the reflective Witt (Caviezel) who can see beauty everywhere and quietly tries to live according to his ethical code in the midst of the war. But in reality the film is not about Witt, but about attitudes to life and ways of living in the world, represented by different characters.

The cast looks like an A-Z of great Hollywood talent: Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta and George Clooney. But it's Jim Caviezel as the aforementioned Witt, Elias Koteas as the Greek Captain who quotes Homer, and Ben Chaplin as the hopeless romantic who are the stars of the tim.

Seriously, an amazing film. Worth watching and enjoying. And the soundtrack is pretty amazing too.
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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on 1 September 2005
This film shatters the standard convetions for a war film and gently replaces them with an intrinsic, poetic and beautifully rendered piece of film making. From start to finish the quality of the photography is fantastic and the director's faultless talent to depict vivid environments is wonderfully illustrated with seamless editing.
A scene depicting two soldiers getting shot while approaching a bunker is superbly complimented by the sun peaking out from the clouds just after they have fallen and disappeared into the tall grass. The absolute tension and thick air of the pre-dawn build-up to the attack with Nick Nolte and John Travolta is one of the greatest scenes of tension I have witnessed.
Personal narratives and agendas throughout the film flood the viewer with emotions and feelings that you wouldn't normally associate with a war film. The soundtrack here is also one of the film's strong points and effortlessly entwines itself into the path of the edits. Engrossing, beautiful and an absolute pleasure to immerse yourself into.
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