Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Thin Red Line

Terrence Malick, 1998 (8.0*)
Memorial Day WAR-a-thon film #9
Looks like director Malick tried to make another great war film from fiction, using another James Jones novel, author of From Here to Eternity. Unfortunately the film has little dramatic impact, especially for a major World War II battle, in this case Guadalcanal, a lengthy battle due to the rugged terrain, and size of the island. It does, however, concentrate on some weighty philosophical issues, mainly why has the evil of war and men killing each crept into the natural world, and introduced horror into what could be a paradise.

Jim Caviezel stars as a man who'd rather retire on a nearby island with natives than commit any more to the carnage of the war in the Pacific. Some of the opening scenes of this are among the more beautiful in cinema, an idyllic tropical paradise, untouched by modern man or war. All too soon for Caviezel, he's soon plunged back into the reality of war against dug-in Japanese troops who'll fight to the end without surrender.
Commanding officer Nick Nolte, who unfortunately growls all his lines, is an unsympathetic, result-oriented, no holds barred type of commander more than willing to send unnecessary men to death to make himself look good, as he feels "passed over" by the bureaucracy and is hoping to rise from colonel to general at any cost.

Whit, played by Jim Caviezel, would rather live in
a primitive paradise than face the modern world of war

This brings all serious questions of war to the surface, namely where does one draw the line between bravery and suicide? At what price are a few hundred yards of earth, all any of this ever amounts to on a microcosmic scale. How much impact can one man really have, as Sean Penn's veteran sergeant character. character asks Jim Caviezel.

Any Malick film is a rarity worth seeing, this may not be his best, but it's still another very good war film, just perhaps a little overlong, yet with a lyrical poetry missing in most films like this one. It's definitely not a gung-ho, flag-waving type of hero worship war film. Still, it won 18 awards out of 44 nominations, but won no Oscars out of seven nominations, which included best picture, director, editing, cinematography, sound, music, screenplay - so you can tell it was another superbly crafted film, hence it's inclusion here.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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