The Thin Red Line

19  FEB
Every man fights his own war.

Directed by  Terrence Malick
Written by  James Jones, Terrence Malick
Starring:  Sean Penn (First Sgt. Edward Welsh)
Elias Koteas (Capt. James 'Bugger' Staros)
Nick Nolte (Lt. Col. Gordon Tall)
Ben Chaplin (Pvt. Jack Bell)
Adrien Brody (Cpl. Fife)
John Cusack (Capt. John Gaff)
Runtime: 170 minutes

It's strange how the industry of cinema works. You don't see any movie about World War II for ages, and then you get two of them in a few months. The first is obviously Saving Private Ryan that is a crude, realistic and profound movie about the D-Day and the search for a 'special' man, the second is The Thin Red Line which is a completely different movie, with a completely different 'result'...

The story is set in a small island in the Pacific Ocean, where a company of the US Army has to assault a hill occupied by the Japanese. The heartless colonel wants a frontal attack, the conscientious captain is for a for a less exposed approach. The fight is not only between the opposing armies, it is between the different views of the commanders and also extends to a deeper level in the soldiers' minds.

If you pick some random shots of this movie, you'll probably end up thinking that it is a naturalistic documentary about plants, animals and inhabitants of the Pacific Islands. The idea to show the contrast between the devastation of war and the beauty of nature would have probably been interesting if it wasn't taken so far! The idea of the documentary seems to be present even at the narration level since the main story ends after about two hours but then the movie goes on for another hour showing fragmented pieces of battles, soldiers' life and, obviously, tropical forest.

One of the most annoying thing is the voice-over of the main character which shows the typical idealistic, rhetorical and idyllic view of life. If it was meant to add a deep poetry to the movie, together with the naturalistic scenes, I am afraid to report that it didn't work at all for me, it simply seemed out of place and unlikely in the middle of the battle. Fortunately, other characters' voice-overs are more interesting, especially the speeches of the conscience of the brutal colonel.

Some actors provide very good acting, Nick Nolte and Elias Koteas more than anybody else, and the general level of the cast is very good. However, it is impossible not to condemn the choice of the cameos by John Travolta and especially George Clooney. Both are present for a few minutes only (one at the beginning, the other at the end) and both provides only a more or less pointless speech 'covered' by the usual voice-over of some other more important character.

I found it impossible not to compare The Thin Red Line with Saving Private Ryan, this made the former seem even worse that it would have been otherwise. In fact, it seemed even more boring, slow, rhetoric and moralistic, especially compared with the other movie that is still profound but with a style, a rhythm and a tension that is completely missing here. Obviously this was meant to be a 'poetical' movie but I couldn't appreciate this at all...

Rating: 5.2  *

Links:  Official Site




© Copyright Sergio Monesi, 1997-1999.
Last updated: 25 Jun 1999