04 August 1999
A Look at... The Thin Red Line - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
Terrence Mallick reemerged from seclusion to make a movie. It just wasnít any movie, but the movie that Gene Siskel said was, ďThe finest contemporary war film.Ē The movie is The Thin Red Line. Starring an all-star cast that included Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, John Cusak and Woody Harrelson (not to mention cameos by John Travolta and George Clooney), The Thin Red Line gives us an explosive tale of the haunting reality of World War II , as fought in the Pacific. While Spielberg brought us D-Day and the intense graphic nature of that battle, Mallick shows us how war can hurt, intensify and make one think, even in the most horrid of conditions. While Saving Private Ryan brought us near-real life gore, Mallick showed us how in the colorful Pacific served as a back drop for one of he most bloody eras of our century.
Itís rather disappointing that Terrence Mallick was not properly honored for his work in this picture. It had the misfortune of opening in the year that was overshadowed by Private Ryan. This movie is a war movie, but it is completely different. While Saving Private Ryan showed us such graphic images, Red Line gives the viewer such amazingly good images that get shattered by the moral chaos that these boys go through.
Nolte proved with his performance here, plus his performance in Affliction (for which he was nominated for an Oscar), that he truly did some of his best and the yearís best work. The acting is very good and clearly, the reality of war and the pressure to win, is firmly captured on the actorís faces. 7 Oscar nods went to this picture, but sadly didnít win one statuette. Mallick, who was nominated twice, adapted James Jonesí book and was nominated twice, for that and for his direction. The cinematography is really good in this picture, that coupled with its art direction makes this film so much more interesting to look at.
Mallick and Spielberg, both have given us war movies for our time. Much like Kubrick and Coppola before them and people like John Ford and Fred Zinneman before them, these films capture the essence of conflict and hugely authentic reality of war. Not to mention make our history a bit more meaningful and at the same time change the definition of how war movies are made. The Thin Red Line is good. Itís destined to be a classic, no matter how many people saw it or what the critics think. Rarely does a film make us think about where we come from and what we are. The Thin Red Line does just that. Rent The Thin Red Line.
Questions and comments may be sent to: email@example.com
An archive of Joseph Planta's previous columns can be found by clicking HERE .