Saturday, July 5, 2008
The Thin Red Line
The Thin Red Line; war drama, USA/ Canada, 1998; D: Terrence Malick, S: Sean Penn, Elias Kotes, Nick Nolte, Jim Caviezel, Adrien Brody, Jared Leto, Ben Chaplin, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, John Travolta, Miranda Otto, Nick Stahl, George Clooney
World War II. Private Witt gets forcefully drafted by Sergeant Welsh. They are in a US division under charge of Colonel Tall and get the assignment to attack the island Guadalcanal which is controlled by the Japanese army. During the attack the leader of the division, Staros, refuses to attack directly since it would be suicidal. After a lot of casualties, they manage to take over the position. Witt and many others die.
20 years after his last film, melodrama "Days of Heaven" from '78, elusive director Terrence Malick returned from his public absence and shot his third film, unusual (anti) war drama "The Thin Red Line" that was nominated for 7 Oscars, including best picture and director, while it won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for best director. And while that same year a similar war film was more noticed, Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan", that neatly served all of its messages on a silver plate, "Line" has a much more esoteric and mysterious line, a cryptic thread that philosophizes and makes the viewer gain his or her own conclusions. The whole story is surprisingly humane and emotional whereas it follows the intimate thoughts of its characters: for instance, while Colonel Tall (Nolte) talks with his superior on a war ship, he thinks: "Maybe I shouldn't have spent my whole life on war, but on love". When one US soldier shoots a Japanese one, he is terrified and thinks: "I killed a man. That's worse than rape". All actors are great, from Sean Penn up to John Cusack, but besides that, the film is filled with dreamy images that define the notion of poetry in full sense of the word, like in the scene where the soldiers are fighting and firing bursts in nature while a helpless, just hatched little bird is crawling through its nest. "Line" is a shining film with small flaws (the overstretched ending) in which names of the characters and linear story are not important: it's like a dream we cannot remember that precisely after we wake up, but a one which leaves a very pleasant feeling.