Thursday, May 30, 2013

934. The Thin Red Line (1998)

Running Time: 171 minutes
Directed By: Terrence Malick
Written By: Terrence Malick, from novel by James Jones
Main Cast: Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, Elias Koteas, Ben Chaplin
Click here to view the trailer


Right now the current goal is to put in a little extra effort and finish up this season on Wednesday. Whether or not I get to that point will have to be seen, but I did knock off the longest picture I have left last night and from here on out, it's basically smooth sailing.

Terrence Malick's first feature film came in 1973, with the release of "Badlands" and his third feature came in 1998 with the release of "The Thin Red Line". In the span of those twenty five years Malick made one other picture; "Days of Heaven", and then disappeared for about twenty years. Apparently during his absence, he was off somewhere in the boondocks pondering the meaning of life, because while "The Thin Red Line" is a war film, it's just as much a philosophical examination of life, nature and spirituality. The film is set during World War II and starts out with an inner monologue by Private Witt (Caviezel), an American soldier who's gone AWOL and has holed himself up on an island, inhabited by natives in the South Pacific. He ponders a bunch of stuff - ideas and dialogue that totally lost me and left me with an "oh my God, this is going to be a long movie" feeling. From there we get some other inner monologues, from different characters - really deep stuff, that usually doesn't come up in basic conversation and just came off as mumbo jumbo to this viewer. Then we get into the real meat of the picture, as C Company is commanded to take control of a hill - a hill that is being heavily guarded by Japanese troops, where they've placed a bunker, barricaded themselves up and have machine gun artillery at their disposal. Any attempt to climb the hill can easily be seen by the Japanese. It's a scene that lasts well over an hour and is really well done, as Malick mixes the ugliness of war, with the beauty of nature: blood streaking across blades of green grass;  dozens of men climbing a hill, while swaying grass envelopes them and the sky, filled with smoke, half orange and half blue.

I guess I sort of delved into my own opinions while writing that plot synopsis didn't I? Oh well. Like I said, the beginning and end is a bunch of crap. Sure, there are some moments tucked away in there and the film has the tendency to sort of drag your ears in, whether you want to hear what's being said or not. But all in all, I can tell you that this film lost me before we even got into the taking of the hill. Once we got there, I had mentally prepared to dislike this movie, but they started to slowly win me back. There's no denying the beauty of the picture. Malick obviously knew what he wanted and worked in conjunction with his director of photography to get the shots that would transform this film from just your typical piece of WWII fodder into something really special. Yes, I'm admitting this film is something special, despite not fully being on board. The photography is gorgeous, the cast is brilliant, the score is moving and the action in the middle is really well done. Had they been able to fill the beginning and end with something more engaging, I'd have been gaga over this movie. It's my own fault, as I guess I'm just not your philosophical type. I don't ponder the meaning of life or the relationship between man and nature. No, I definitely don't do that. I also don't buy that soldiers do that, as a matter of fact. Listen, I don't want to knock any soldiers with this review, but usually these guys are a lot more gruff and gung ho. They're not your life pondering types.

The film was a good war film and one that I could give a moderate seal of approval. I didn't love it or anything, but nor did I hate it. It really made you wonder about war and life, I guess and wonder how many of these little moments were created on the battlefield. How many men drew their last breath, while being held by their brothers in arms? How many men begged their fellow soldier to write home to their wives, knowing that they were done for? How many men died alone, with no one to tell their final secrets to? Maybe it goes a little way in helping me to understand why there are so many war movies, because maybe I'm finally starting to realize how many war stories are out there and yearning to be told.

RATING: 6/10  Can't go any higher than that and I highly doubt (unless I have a severe change of heart) that it'll be making any TOP 20 list.


May 30, 2013  12:19pm

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