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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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on 7 March 2013
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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on 17 January 2017
This review applies only to DVD (ASIN:B00004TBT2). The picture quality is very good due to an average bitrate of 5183kbps. What stands out, when compared to early WWII movies, is the excellent sound quality.

This movie has a fantastic cast. Whilst Saving Private Ryan stole all the limelight just before this movie was released, I think this is better.
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on 26 April 2013
What I love about the film is the juxtoposition of the beauty of the world the horros of war are taking place in.
The film is about the human spirit. It is a beautifully shot film. A thinking persons war film.
You see courage, fear and sheer stupidity all here. Mercy and acceptance and forgiveness are also here - which is unusal for a war film.

It's different. It's beautiful. I watched it recently after I was first captivated by it in the cinema when it came out. I still found it to be a great piece of cinema.
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on 18 April 2018
slow, but has a good action scene near the end of the film,
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on 3 April 2018
A good war film but a bit slow at times. Speedy delivery
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on 27 January 2018
Essential. A must for anyone affected by war or who wishes for the end of it. Or to gain some understanding and compassion despite the all the dehumanising it has wrought and continues to wreak. Isn't that all of us?
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on 23 January 2015
Film Content: An excellent WWII based action/drama film featuring an extensive cast of quality actors being worked well with Terence Malik's usual level of painstaking diligence. A film placed comfortably inside my Top 100 with a score from me of 8.7 out of 10. A classic, an essential.

Packaging/Product: Standard Blu-ray Steelbook with one disc, a nice item.

Service: Standard for Amazon.co.uk which is safe, efficient and reliable delivery.
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on 12 April 2018
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on 9 July 2016
This is a film about people. The war is a backdrop for the exploration of just a few who fought in it. Superb.
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