The Thin Red Line (DVD, 1999) Reviews
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The Thin Red Line (DVD, 1999)

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WAKE ME WHEN IT'S OVER

Sep 11, 2000 (Updated Jul 11, 2001)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Photography, Penn, Nolte, Cusack

Cons:Direction, Script, supporting cast

The Bottom Line: You will do no wrong to miss this turkey!


As a travelogue, The Thin Red Line would be a success. Who wouldn’t want to see the jungles of New Guinea or Guadalcanal up close and personal? However, as a film with a story to tell, the movie was a bomb.

I bought the video tape, unseen, on the recommendation of some friends who said it was a great movie. After viewing it three or four times, I must say I will probably never take their word for it again on whether to see a movie or not! Luckily, I only had to fork over six bucks or so, if I would have dropped twenty, I would be asking for my money back!

The movie starts out with a couple of deserters on an island paradise. The thoughts of the characters are conveyed through a voice-over that soon became irritating and overbearing with its inanity. One of the deserters, Private Witt, played by Jim Cavaziel, turns out to be the main character and contributes a lot to the doze factor of this pretentious film.

Cavaziel obviously a member of the Mel Gibson/Kevin Costner school of non-acting, provided little more than a pretty face, just like Mel and Kevin so often do. Private Witt’s prodigious depth of thought was revealed in the voice-overs, "Why does Nature contend with itself?", "Is there another world?", "Maybe there’s only one big soul and all men are part of it;" ad nauseam. To make Witt’s philosophizing more profound we have tough guys Sean Penn as First Sergeant Welsh and Nick Nolte as the ambitious Lieutenant Colonel Tall. These two have no feelings for anybody, particularly Nolte’s character who wants to please General John Travolta at any cost. Nolte and Penn, despite much less screen time than Cavaziel add much more to the film with their corrupt or fallible characterizations than the noble Cavaziel does.

Besides all the nobility of men at war, there is Director Malick’s deconstruction of the American hero. One character is shown pulling gold teeth from Japanese, dead and living. What a philosophical statement. Also, the shooting of Japanese who are trying to surrender. What noble soldiers our WWII heroes were. My father or his WWII veteran buddies would kick the stuffing out of Malick if they had seen this film and they were still capable of the physical exertion. And I would agree with them. War is hell, but our GIs were not animals like Malick portrays them.

The battle scenes were good, but few and far between. Standout was John Cusack as a young officer who would do or die, just like a little Colonel Tall.

One character kept daydreaming about his wife, mostly on a swing or in similar innocent occupations. Then he got a dear John letter. So much for philosophy. And so much for the over-rated Thin Red Line.




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