Saturday, August 22, 2015

Zaki's Original Review: The Thin Red Line

First published: January 22, 1999

Jim Caviezel heads up an ensemble of all-stars in Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line
The most obvious question that sprang to mind before viewing director Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line was how it would stack up in comparison with Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Both films cull their subject matter from World War II, with a fiery level of violent realism that proves to be, as per the adage, Hell. The comparison ends there, however.

Any attempt to point up further similarities between the two works does a disservice to both. In stark contrast with the clearly linear narrative of Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line emerges almost as an art movie disguised as a mainstream film. Set during the battle Guadalcanal, the film's narrative is spread out amongst the members of Charlie Company, a tightly-knit unit of soldiers fighting the good fight.

While star Tom Hanks provided a focal point for the actions in Ryan, Thin Red Line is populated by an ensemble cast studded by some of of the more well-known actors working today. Familiar faces like Sean Penn, George Clooney, John Travolta, and John Cusack enact their scenes alongside such talented newcomers as Jim Caviezel and Ben Chaplin.

The one common thread linking the diverse talent involved is that they all make lasting impressions with what are, very often, the sparest of roles. After making a splash in the '70s with such films as Days of Heaven, the reclusive Malick returns to the film arena with The Thin Red Line, leaving little doubt as to why his reputation is so legendary.

His continuous emphasis on the beautiful environs provides a stark contrast with the horrific battle imagery, pointing up the notion that Man is very much the Serpent in this Garden of Eden. Additionally, the technique of having the principles providing their own internal monologues, though jarring at first, proves an effective way of getting us emotionally involved.

At the outset of Oscar season, I envisioned Private Ryan snagging the big awards, with the also-rans fighting it out for the small pickings. Such highly-touted Oscar hopefuls as Beloved and Patch Adams did little to sway this line of thinking. Then The Thin Red Line came along. This is where things get interesting. A

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