The Thin Red Line (1998)

The Thin Red Line
Director: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Based on: James Jonesnovel
Cast: Nick Nolte, Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, Elias Koteas, Ben Chaplin, Dash Mihok, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Miranda Otto, Jared Leto, John Travolta, George Clooney, Kirk Acevedo, Mark Boone Junior, Nick Stahl

The Guadalcanal is an important strategic point in World War II. Therefore a group of soldiers is brought in to battle for an airfield held by the Japanese which quickly turns into a slaughter with pressures from within and without rising for everyone.

I never liked Malick movies. I wanted to watch this one anyway because it’s a classic and so I decided to jump at the chance when it was shown at the Filmmuseum in Vienna. Now that I have seen it, I can say: I really don’t like Malick movies.


It’s not that The Thin Red Line is a bad film. The only thing that’s really bad about it is the casting of Jim Caviezel (unless you want somebody who looks high all the time because he always wears a serene smile, you do NOT cast Jim Caviezel).

The film is effective in showing the horrors of war. The cast is brilliant – especially Nick Nolte stole every scene he was in – and it is fascinating to see who is in the film. Every second background face is somehow familiar. The cinematography is beautiful, as is the soundtrack (oh goodness, the soundtrack!).


But despite all of that I was absolutely bored for most of the film (it took all my self-control to not look at my watch all the time. I managed for an hour). I couldn’t even stay awake for the last 15 minutes anymore. The repeated flashbacks were extremely annoying (especially those to Miranda Otto – which had nothing to do with her), though not as annoying as the voice-overs that felt like they were constant even though I rationally know they weren’t.

There’s just this fundamental way that Malick works past me or that I think past Malick, whichever – we just don’t seem to connect. Even if he made the best film in the history of films, I’d probably still walk out of it bored and annoyed.


Summarizing: I think I’m done with Malick altogether.

3 thoughts on “The Thin Red Line (1998)

  1. I’m glad someone else doesn’t like this movie. I was so lost in all the constant character shifting and endless internal dialogue! After awhile, it just felt like a terribly self-indulgent thing, distracting from the real story which was supposed to be Guadalcanal and the terrible battle to seize it. Why couldn’t they just focus on that and leave all the whispery-voiced “war is hell” stuff out?

    • Oh yes, Malick and his voice-over monologues… a thing to hate. Though I thought that the ones in Tree of Life were much worse than here. But that semi-spiritual waxing on about life, death and all his wisdom – you’re totally right: it’s self-indulgent. And it’s also unnecessary: the film showed quite clearly that war is hell, we don’t need to be told, too. Ugh.

      The frustrating thing is that I can see the qualities of the film with absolute clarity – and I can’t appreciate them even one bit.

  2. Pingback: Nobi [Fires on the Plain] (2014) | kalafudra's Stuff

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