The Thin Red Line Review
By Christopher Null
War is hell. I think.
Terrence Malick's long-awaited and severely overhyped Line is plenty red, but it isn't thin at all. In fact, it's damn thick and dense, and it meanders about like a lazy river.
At almost three hours, The Thin Red Line burns long and slow, and fully a third of the movie is completely wasted on surrealistic, bizarre voice-overs that do little but confuse what is an otherwise running theme in the film: War blows.
But Malick is a hermitic auteur, and as such, he must be allowed to do as he pleases. So, for example, instead of seeing the film--and the war--only through the eyes of its central character, Jack Witt (Cavaziel), we are treated to behind-the-brain looks at a half-dozen other characters, too. And they all pretty much agree that WWII is a real pisser, for some reason or another.
Not that Line is without its strengths, the middle third is a juicy look at the horrors of the war in the Pacific and the power plays of military officers. But, sadly, much of Line is a simple vanity project, not just for Malick but also for the dozens of name-brand stars involved. Witness John Travolta and George Clooney in blatant I-flew-in-for-the-afternoon one-scene appearances. Such star quality and behind-the-scenes hype will do a lot to woo critics and Oscar voters... at the expense of truly good filmmaking.
The movie's camerawork and performances by Cavaziel, Chaplin, Penn, Koteas, and Cusack should not be overlooked, and Nolte's put-upon Lt. Colonel is a memorable piece of work. But as for the silly metaphysical script that invents more English language constructs than it adheres to... well, let's just say that the importance of a good story editor can't be stressed heavily enough.
All eyes out for Mr. Malick...
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 15th January 1999
Box Office Worldwide: $36.4M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Fox 2000 Pictures, Phoenix Pictures, Geisler-Roberdeau
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 72 Rotten: 19
Cast & Crew
Starring: Sean Penn as 1st Sgt. Welsh, Adrien Brody as Cpl. Fife, Ben Chaplin as Pvt. Bell, George Clooney as Capt. Bosche, John Cusack as Capt. Gaff, Woody Harrelson as Sgt. Keck, Elias Koteas as Capt. Staros, Nick Nolte as Lt. Col. Tall, John C. Reilly as Sgt. Storm, John Travolta as Brig. Gen. Quintard, Kirk Acevedo as Pvt. Tella, Mark Boone Junior as Pvt. Peale, Matt Doran as Pvt. Coombs, Paul Gleeson as 1st Lt. Band, Don Harvey as Sgt. Becker, Arie Verveen as Pvt. Charlie Dale, Jared Leto as 2nd Lt. Whyte, John Savage as Sgt. McCron, Nick Stahl as Pfc - Beade, Miranda Otto as Marty Bell, Tim Blake Nelson as Pvt. Brian Tills, Dash Mihok as Pfc. Don Doll, Larry Romano as Pvt. Mazzi, Penelope Allen as Witt's Mother, Danny Hoch as Pvt. Carni, Jim Caviezel as Pvt. Witt