Monday, June 7, 2010

Movie of the Week - The Thin Red Line

This week’s movie is The Thin Red Line (1998).

The film is about U.S. soldiers’ experiences of the battle of Guadalcanal during WWII, and while the film itself is fictional, it is based on James Jones’ autobiographical novel. The film is directed by Terrence Malick and was the first film he made since Days of Heaven (a twenty year break). The crew is superb on the film featuring a score by Hans Zimmer and wonderful cinematography by John Toll. It also boasts an all-star cast, though many of them are briefly in the film (check out the full credits). While the film could be compared to Saving Private Ryan, both coming out the same year, both taking place during WWII, both being nominated for a number of Oscars, the films are very different – Malick’s focuses on the emotion of the characters and features the landscape prominently, almost as a character onto itself (something that is apparent in all of his films). The story is secondary (almost fading away) to the emotion that the images evoke in the viewer, while Spielberg’s film is very story driven. The initial cut of the film was far too long; some estimates have it at ten hours and others at five. It took Malick and his multiple editors about two years to refine it down to its theatrical cut, and in the process losing performances from Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Sheen, Gary Oldman, Bill Pullman, Lukas Haas, Viggo Mortensen, and Mickey Rourke and by some accounts vastly altering the initial project. What makes the film great is that while it is an epic in scope, it feels very subdued and personal. Malick’s collaboration with Toll is beautiful and there is a great scene featuring John Cusack leading a charge on a hillside turret/bunker. This is a must see for fans of war movies and/or existentialist cinema. Check out the trailer.

The Thin Red Line (Criterion Collection Blu-ray/DVD/normal DVD)

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