"The Thin Red Line" DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

10/03/2010 Posted by Admin

“The Thin Red Line”

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

By Christopher Smith

In spite of endless comparisons to Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” Terrence Malick’s World War II epic “The Thin Red Line,” now available in a Blu-ray Criterion Collection, is no “Saving Private Ryan” at all.

And it's not meant to be.

It’s cerebral where that film was flashy, a web of paradoxes and ironies where “Ryan” was more literal. It’s strangely surreal, yet absolutely true to the war it depicts. It features strong performances, yet has no central protagonist. It is beautifully shot, can be terrifically gripping, yet lacks cohesion, flow and emotional impact.

It’s not so much a film about war as it is a film about the effects of war. With clear leanings toward Buddhism, the film is more concerned with the internal landscape (in this case, meditations on the soul, mortality and one’s relationship with God and nature), than with the external landscape (in this case, Guadalcanal). It follows no formula, has no plot, it’s too long by a third and it takes great risks in the name of art--yes, art--which the film finds almost exclusively in nature.

But the film is a curious mess because of its affinity to nature;--it gives more time to its lush, rolling hillsides and stunning canopies of sun-lit trees than it does to its non-existent plot or to its characters, none of whom emerge as wholly realized individuals in spite of having been performed by a good cast, including Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, John Cusack and Woody Harrelson.

Unlike Spielberg, who plays to his audience because he’s never fully trusted his audience, Malick never considers his audience because he’s not a crowd-pleaser. He is motivated by the intangible, interested in the deeper truth, focused on the thin red line of complexity, while unafraid to cross that line into the sometimes confusing sphere of paradox.

If none of this sounds as if “The Thin Red Line” is worth seeing, it is. The film has its considerable triumphs, particularly in Malick’s extremely well-choreographed battle sequences, where his thematic elements of Edenic nature vs. mankind clash headlong into surrealism--and gut-wrenching reality.

Grade: B

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  1. Anonymous said...

    I find it really strange that the review fails to mention Jim Caviezel. Completely agree it was ensemble cast, but he probably had the most screentime and for me this was his break through performance that made Hollywood sit up and take notice of him : ) It's a great movie

    Yasmin Selena Butt