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Opened in Theaters: Friday, January 15th, 1999

Directed by Terrence Malick
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 2:26

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The Thin Red Line
Academy Award® Nominee
Based on James Jones' 1962 autobiographical novel about the World War II battle at Guadalcanal, director Terrence Malick brings us this story about how battle affects the soldiers involved.  View more >

violence, profanity

Starring Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel...  View more >

Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay
View more information about this movie >

Reviews Summary

Rating # %  
See Now!  12 27 See Now! Percent
Good  8 18 Good Percent
Wait for Rental  5 11 Wait Percent
Stay Away!  20 44 Stay Away! Percent
45 Total Reviews

Please Note: Reader Reviews are submitted by the readers of The BigScreen Cinema Guide and represent their own personal opinions regarding this movie, and do not represent the views of The BigScreen Cinema Guide, or any of its associated entities.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
This movie was so bad it had me whishing I had paid to ANTZ instead. And yes I've already seen ANTZ with my wife. She liked ANTZ and I didn't. Even with the big name stars like Nick Nolte and John Travolta couldn't bring this one out of the scrap heap. I belive the best shots are still on the cutting room floor. The director tried to shock the audience with cameos of dead soldiers with limbs blown off and totally unbelieveable seens like a soldier falling on a grenade that he inadvertantly pulled the pin on, but showed no injury to the soldier (they talked about it but failed to show the end result). If I had to see this one again it would probably because I was sent to hell and this was my punishment. Out of a possible 4 stars I give this film a negative 1 for wasting the audiences time and money.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
"Thin Red Line" is nearly three solid hours of depressing reality. On opening night, about a dozen people left the theater before the film was over. One person in the theater spoke for many when he exclaimed in a loud and anguished voice, "Thank God!" as the credits began.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
First of all....I truly hated it. Okay, now we all know that we should "hate war", but this is the first film that truly lets that feeling sink in personally. Unfortunately this movie makes you hate war not because of the violence against mankind, but because this was the longest, dry, and most boring film ever made about war. I promise that some part of you will fall asleep during this film, whether it be your feet, butt, or entire body. I haven't said this in awhile, but if you are ever having company over that you want to leave early, then rent this film, show it and I can assure you that your guests will be sleeping or begging to go home within the first hour. This was just a terrible film. Bottom line on the Thin Red Line...if you are having trouble sleeping lately, this film will cure your insomnia.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Rating this movie on par with Saving Private Ryan is to slander Ryan. Line had no plot, a few bit parts by some noted actors acting badly and terrible camera work. At almost 3 hours it was a yawner and definitely a movie to stay away from. The best part was the popcorn.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
The Thin Red Line (1998)

Terrence Malik's 'The Thin Red Line' is a diatribe against war, an anti-violence tone poem that highlights the senselessness and insanity that occurs when humans insist on fighting. It is also a very uneven film.

Malik's screenplay begins with two GIs walking about a scant village of native islanders, with whom they seem to be familiar. The friendliness of Pvt. Witt (James Caviezel) is obvious in the easy way he relates to a woman caring for her child. After an American patrol boat passes, we learn that Witt and his friend have been AWOL, actually taking a break from the war and living with the villagers. Instantly we are forced to note the contrast between the lush rainforest, beaches leading down to sparkling water, and the troop ship on which Witt is held prisoner by his own army. Sgt. Edward Welch (Sean Penn) takes a sort of philosophical pity on Witt, however, and instead of being court-martialed, the young man is sent to a disciplinary unit where he helps care for the wounded. It is here that Witt commences his role as Christ figure, a gentle soul sent along to teach others by kind acts and examples. Ironic for a soldier, especially when Witt talks his way back into "C" Company, which is run by Welsh and captained by James Staros (Elias Koteas).

The film follows this company throughout their campaign to take an important hill on the Pacific island of Guadalcanal in the Second World War. As much as it can be categorized, the plot consists of these men's exploits, triumphs and deaths in their attempts to capture this strategic strip of land from the occupying Japanese forces.

The history surrounding the battles around the Solomon Islands is non-existent; perhaps Malik can justify the paucity of military planning in the name of character development or even in the service of portraying war in its allegorical sense. But it would have been nice to see more than one soldier with a clipboard, and more than two scenes showing where these weary warriors slept or mended or spend their off hours. Anyhow, Malik is not after portraying what happened throughout the entire offensive on Guadalcanal and Tulagi between August, 1942 and February, 1943. As I stated before, his intention seems to be showing the grisly reality of modern combat, focusing on the devastation wreaked upon individual men.

A fascinating element employed by Malik is the voice-over monologues. First we hear Witt talking about the natives, followed by other characters ruminating on what's happening to their lives. Images interrupt their voices, a wife swinging or a child in a field - remnants of real-world memories many of the men carry with them in the same way they carry lockets with photographs. These sudden, almost expressionistic sequences serve to show the source of meaning in these men's lives; they add a sense of home and comfort in the chaos of battle and the mortal boredom of waiting to attack. Because they are risky narrative devices, these mental flashbacks are to be admired. It's when they go on too long that they threaten the success of the film.

A very strong aspect is the battle scenes. Starting with the LCIs racing toward shore, their engines rumbling above the spirited shouts of the troops, Malik depicts energy and action very well. The assault by Charlie Company on the hill will rank with the best and most realistic of filmed combat. It contains so many dimensions of the human condition - courage and cowardice, ethical dilemmas and accidents, terror and egotism - that a review cannot do justice to its accomplishment. Malik has choreographed truly realistic and horrifying work here.

A lot has been said about Malik's striking camera work, and it's clear why. The settings are beautifully shot, from the hills covered with high grass to the green glassiness of the sea. When Malik juxtaposes the war atop these images from Eden, we get a quick idea of the destructiveness of humankind. Just over the ridge of five-foot grass, or across the clearing in the bamboo forest, there lurks a painful death. One is reminded again that World War II is often glorified, its purpose just. But directors like Malik and Steven Spielberg show us scenes just as hellish as anything set during other wars. Occasionally, though, the individual daydream sequences last too long, seeming to lack direction and sometimes coherence.

'The Thin Red Line' is well acted. If you are like me and do not care for Sean Penn, perhaps because of the reputation formed in his younger years, you will probably change your mind. I saw him just recently in 'Dead Man Walking', and was impressed by his complete assumption of the character. His Sgt. Welsh is sculpted just as carefully, with searing stares and wrinkled, compassionate brow. Nick Nolte, as Lt. Colonel Gordon Tall, hands in the other outstanding performance. From the time we first see him licking the boots of his one-star general (John Travolta) to the time he inadvertently reveals his megalomania, Nolte flashes the subtle expressions, mannerisms and intonations owned by the very best actors.

Several actors distinguish themselves in supporting roles. John Cusack is so good that he seems underused. Woody Harrelson sketches a mean but heroic Sgt. Keck in his brief role. As Captain Staros, Elias Koteas assumes a gutsy, fatherly authority: he's a lawyer turned trained killer, a reluctant leader with the backbone to stand up to the rants and ordered suicides of Col Tall. In their cameo appearances, John Travolta and George Clooney struck me as so much fluff. Like a couple of the precious dream shots, they call too much attention to themselves. I like them as actors, but why hire leading men for jobs character actors can do better?

It's a fair judgment that the 170-minute running time helps to cause the saggy narrative structure, particularly at the end. Malik goes over-the-top with his poetic disgust, but his grasp for greatness puts within our reach a far better film than one made by a safer director with less vision. I would recommend seeing this lush and memorable piece on the big screen if you can; otherwise, wait until its premiere on commercial television.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I just spent the longest three hours of my life! It should be against the law for someone to make a movie this boring. During the first hour of the movie I almost got up and left, but I kept thinking that it had to get better. Then we were shown forty minutes of soldiers walking through the jungle -- with nothing happening! During the entire length of the movie (and I use that term very loosly), we were subjected to a continuous barrage of the private thoughts of the main characters. Only problem -- I can't imagine any any infantryman in the middle of a war thinking the deep thoughts that were cascading from the screen. It got to the point that it was funny! And one of the characters (by the way, the characters were so transparent that I don't even remember who they were)kept flashing back to his wife over and over and over and over and over -- you get the point. Once would've been plenty. To sum it up -- don't waste your money. I saw the pathetic "Virus" the day before this, but it was even better than "The Thin Red Line".

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I can't believe I just wasted almost 3 hours of time. I thought maybe I was the only one who thought that way. But as I was walking out I kept hearing the same phrase over and over "That sucked".They seemed to throw alot of well named actors into it just to draw an audience.

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
An excellent movie from start to finish. First of all, it was made very, very well. It's a shame that the director doesn't make more films! I found it to be much more "real" than Saving Private Ryan. The film grabs you by the gut and doesn't let go. It hooks you right away and doesn't let go until the end. And the acting is also excellent. The characters are brought to life in a way that they seem real, not just contrived movie characters. You find yourself actually getting to know the main characters, seeing how what they face has changed them, and believing in them. Personally, I can see several potential Academy Award winners. It was worth every cent I paid for it. Because often you go to a movie and it fails to move you. If this film doesn't move you, if it doesn't make you feel alive, well then I don't know what will.

[--- Good ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Let me preface, I've been a war movie buff and unofficial critic for 25 years. Specifically I look for realism in battle scenes. Secondary, the believability of the actors, scenery, feel, etc. After all these years I don't hesitate to say that Saving Private Ryan (especially the first 1/2 hour) is the best battle scenes ever filmed. With this backdrop, I have to give The Thin Red Line 2 scores. Let me chose 1 hour of the movie and I'll rank as good as any I've ever scene, including Braveheart, Platoon, When Trumpets Fade and Patton. The other 2 hours were slightly interesting but overly essoteric and, to put it plainly, BORING! The cameos were good and bad. I'll never stop enjoying watching Woody Harrolson (sp?) suffer and die slowly (for personal political reasons). But I must admit, he did an excellent job in movie. Ditto Cusack. Trovolta and Clooney were stunningly mistcast and meaningless to the movie, almost like the director wanted to throw in some star power. Nolte is good, Penn is good, as is the rest of the cast. What left me cold were the voice overs and flashbacks, which, after a quick poll of 5 of my companions, made no real sense and added nothing but squirm time in our seats. Regardless, the battle scenes are some of the best ever made and for anyone interested in reality of battle, this is a can't miss movie. P.S. Very appreciated, was the lack of "F--- this" and "F--- that" which plagued "Ryan" and "Trumpets Fade".

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
that such high quality actors combine could turn out such an incredibly poor product is totally astounding. after the first 50min, there was no character development, barely any plot, and all delivered in the most boring of fashions. in nearly 40years of movie-going, this is the first that i've left early (after wasting 50min of my time, i didn't *care* what happened) and demanded a refund. i'm guessing the stars couldn't get out of there contracts. a great example of why some director/producers should not attempt a comeback.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Not the type of movie most viewers will expect a war movie to be.

Soldiers considering why humans fight wars.

I thought it was difficult to determine what the story was at times.

Lots of flashback type scenes right in the middle of a battle. Seemed like a lot of bouncing around with no point.

Even thought the subject matter is quite serious, at times I thought I would hear the SNL music and the "Deep Thoughts" announcement.

Brief cameos by well recognized stars were agrivating - seemed like they were sticking their nose in someone else's movie.

I felt the movie was a waste of 3 hours let alone the cash.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
What can I say that wasn't said above. It was horrible. To say the battle scenes were the only good part of the movie makes me sound like an action freak and I am not. This film squandered it's talent, scenery and above all it seemed to be more of a esoteric Vietnam movie then a World War II movie. The scenery was out of this world, in fact it was so good that and the story of the natives was the only reason I stayed. Believe me, I sighed a Huge sigh of relief as well as most of the others in the theatre (those who didn't leave 2 hours into the movie) when the credits finally rolled. The movie does show the way war drains a man of his humanity, well in some parts, hollywood cliche in others. If in fact the movie was shorter and had continuity I would have enjoyed it more. Do not go to see this movie to learn anything about Guadacanal or it's true importance to the overall outcome of the war in the Pacific. Actually, don't go see this film unless you have $8 and 3 hours to waste.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Don't waste your time, pass on this one. Tell your friends.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
This is one of the worst war movies I've seen ever! Don't waste your time or your money for this movie. It was the longest three hours in my life. The only good thing in this movie, if any, was the acting.

[--- Good ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
OK... there's a lot of bad reviews from the public... but I think they're cutting down a classic.

If you're a casual movie goer and don't like to be challenged... then stay away from this one.

If you like to be moved by visual poetry and themes that open your mind and soul... then see this right away.

This is not a "war movie"... it's a visionary cinematic experience.

The classic beginning, middle, end with plot and conflict of a "normal" movie is shaded by images of nature, life, death, experience, and much more.

I'm surprised so many people don't understand this movie... much of the dialogue from the primary characters spells out the themes.

There are many themes... the best way to explain the movie is to call it a window in which you can explore humanity's existance. It doesn't necessarily make a judgment about our ability to destroy... but it does convincingly showcase humanity's position in the world and universe... both physically and spiritually.

Saving Private Ryan was completely up-front about it's theme... "War is Bad." Ryan's theme was intermixed with a WWII story.

In "The Thin Red Line" the themes are the story... and the division is much harder to detect. It's format reminds me of many European films.

The cinematography is brilliant... the dialogue is written excellently.

I did not care for a couple of cameos by Travlota and George Clooney... it just didn't fit. (both their parts were very brief by the way thank goodness.)

If you havn't seen "The Thin Red Line" and want to see one of the best films of the year... then see it before it leaves theaters. But only do this if you have an open mind and can welcome cinematic innovation instead of the standard Hollywood Formula B.S. that gets thrown at us so frequently.

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Viewers coming in to The Thin Red Line expecting another Saving Private Ryan action flick left the theaters disappointed at the more psychological and symboic movie. I for one, thought that the movie superceeded Saving Private Ryan in many ways. Above all, I thought that this was perhaps among the greatest war movies I have ever seen.

Many people go to a movie to be entertained without having to think about it. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but those who do so will shut their minds off to this particular masterpiece. The symbolism, especially concerning the water and the birds, adds to the intensity of the movie--not the same intensity of Saving Private Ryan, but more of a mental intensity.

The acting is also spectacular. I was a bit weary coming into the movie that the big name actors would not do a good job. However, I was pleasently surprised.

Finally, this movie perfectly demonstrates the struggle between the evil side of man and the good side of man, and it also demonstrates the struggle that every soldier at war feels, the internal struggle of one's morality. All I can say is, "WOW!"

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I would recommend the movie. Thought the filming was excellent. It is one of those must see on the Big Screen. Liked the performances of Nick Nolte, Sean Pean and the captain. To me movie gave a realistic depiction of what it would be like to be in position in which you know for certainty you will die in the next few minutes. I felt so sorry for the soldiers and that they had to endure all this pain and suffering. This movie really captured this action. I would rate this part of the movie better than Saving Private Ryan. However, I would rate Saving Private Ryan better for story. Both movies were about 3 hours but The Thin Red Line lost it's story line after the 2nd hour. I had no idea what was going on in the third hour of The Thin Red Line. I was lost and wanted the Movie to just end. Saving Private Ryan kept you at the edge of your seat the whole movie. George Cloony has another ridulous role- he was not needed! I recommend the movie, with the warning about the last hour. You mayjust leave.

Jeff Brand

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Before I begin my review, let me first offer this disclaimer: I'm still not completely sure about how to feel about this movie. In time, my opinion may very well change.

THE THIN RED LINE and JACKIE BROWN have a lot in common. Like JACKIE BROWN last year, THE THIN RED LINE aspires to be a classic. Both movies boast great casts. Both also have to follow (and be compared to) very good movies. A year ago, JACKIE BROWN had the daunting task of following up PULP FICTION as Tarantino's next directing effort. This year, TTRL had the equally daunting task of following SAVING PRIVATE RYAN as the second WWII movie of the year.

However, both films are far inferior to their predecessors. Additionally, both films are far longer than they should be, a tribute to the overly-symbolic direction of the directors. In short, both had the makings of a classic, but ironicly found that their undoing was trying too hard to be classic.

TTRL is a three hour movie that is part WWII and part National Geographic nature film. Based on the battle of Guadalcanal, it spends far too much time with psuedo-symbolic shots of light poking through the rainforest ceiling. At first, these shots are impressive, but after a while they lose their appeal and by the end, you get the impression that director Terrence Malick was merely looking for a way to extend the film's length to the "epic movie" standard three hours.

What this movie has going for it, in short, is its cast. Sean Penn does a great job of showing a soldier who no longer expresses any feelings at all. Newcomers Jim Caviezel and Adrian Brody both shine as well. Although I kept associating him with his BOOGIE NIGHTS persona "Chest Rockwell", John C. Reilly turned in a strong performance as well. The cameos from Travolta, Clooney, and John Cusack were fun. But the performance which I found Oscar-worthy was that of Nick Nolte as a savage, brutal captain. He, in essence, saves this film from complete failure.

Overall, this film is best viewed at home, so one can cut to the chase with their fast forward button.

RATING: C- (out of 10)

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Thin Red Line is the worst movie I have seen in a long time. If my coat had not been five seats away, I would have got up and left. It was so slow and boring it was uncomfortable. Everytime I drifted off into blissful sleep, battle noise woke me up (i.e., not even a good movie to go to for its insomnia curing abilities).

I hated every minute of this movie and do not understand the rave reviews it is getting from mainstream critics. If you value your time and money, stay away from this movie!

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Almost every review for The Thin Red Line which I have read has compared it to another recently released WW2 movie, Saving Private Ryan. I feel it is unfair to compare the two movies, both are about the second World War that is about the only connection they share. Besides Ryan's horrific first 20 minutes (a brutal and realistic recreation of D-Day), Ryan was more of a conventional film with the set storyline (find a missing soldier). The Thin Red Line has it's battle scenes (the whole middle), but goes more for imagery and symbolism. There is no set story line just a team of soldiers you follow around. If you have looked at the papers or seen the previews for The Thin Red Line you have probably been amazed at the cast it has. This is misleading since only two of the big names have big roles, Sean Penn (Dead Man Walking, At Close Range) and Nick Nolte (Affliction, Blue Chips). Although these two have big roles, the main two roles are given to newcomers Jim Caviezel and Ben Chaplin. Both are superb, Caviezel playing a soldier who has gone AWOl a couple of times, but seems to have something special about him and Chaplin as a soldier who has an incredible devotion to his wife back home. Penn plays a tough soldier who seems to like Caviezel despite his tough attitude toward him. Penn is one of the best actors in Hollywood and continues that with another strong performance. Nolte is extremely good as a Patton-type leader who wants his military glory no matter the cost. John Travolta (Get Shorty, Pulp Fiction) and George Clooney (Out of Sight, One Fine Day) both appear briefly (less than a minute each) and leave no effect, except for the poor timing of Clooney's cameo. Woody Harrelson (The Cowboy Way, Indecent Proposal) has a slightly bigger part as one of the leaders during a battle and has a fairly powerful scene. John Cusack also has a small role, but plays it perfectly. Also, Elias Koteas (Fallen, The Prophecy) beautifully plays the role of a leader who has to make a difficult decision during the battle. John C. Reilly (The River Wild, Out on a Limb) and Adrien Brody (Solo, Angels in the Outfield) are in the whole movie but have little to do, but do it well. Not a standard war film, but still a powerful and outstanding film from writer and director Terrence Malick.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Saving Private Ryan it isn't! Thin Red Line is too long and drawn out, and to slow to develop, its also boring. Nolte and Penn give good performances, other than that forget it! The shame of it all is that Thin Red Line could have been a great movie. I suppose the thing that ruined it for me is that too much time is spent showing the characters--Weed, Bell, etc--talking to themselves

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
This movie was about 2 hours and 50 minutes too long. And then, to make the experience even more excrutiating, it was pointless and plotless. If the point of the movie was to drive home how pointless war is, it succeeded wonderfully - anything else didn't come through.

[--- Good ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
"The Thin Red Line" marks the return of what many hail as a "great director" to the big screen. If that's true, then he must have had a lot of trouble communicating his great wisdom with the cast. It's as if they are making two entirely different movies-one, played by the cast, is a gritty war film. The director however insists on inserting flashback sequences and profound statements which we'd never actually hear from the characters the actors are playing. The movie isn't really that bad overall; the action is well shot, and the actors do their jobs quite well. But it's "schizophrenia" (as Roger Ebert put it in his review) does make it a tad confusing at times. Truth is that the profound bits just don't seem to fit, and they end up being painfully boring moments inserted at just the wrong times. It's cinematography is beautiful, and it's philisophical take on war intriguing, so I think it's worth seeing-but due to it's biggest flaw (the fact that it tries to be two films in one), this "pacifists war film" (as I like to put it) is nowhere near the quality of Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan".

It's borderline between "good" and "rental" for me; I say go see it in the theater simply because good war movies require good sound systems. One final note:Some of the big name actors listed in the cast-what the heck were they thinking putting them in the main credits/trailer?! Travolta's role was very small, and we didn't see Clooney until almost the very end, and even then only for about 90 seconds, in a non-combat situation. The things they say to sell...

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Critics are raving about how good this movie is...My husband & I didn't like it. We left the theater shaking our heads & thinking that we must have missed something. Maybe we'll see it again...when it comes out on tape. Peggy

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I cant speak to highly of this movie because I almost fell asleep many times during this film. The Thin Red Line makes Saving Private Ryan look 100 times better. If you are into 3 hour movies, and want to be bored during the endless scenes of flashbacks, men sitting around thinking to themselves, and mild fight scenes, then by all means, see it.

[--- Good ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I should have believed the reviews by those who had seen this movie. It was a good film but much too long. The same message could have been conveyed without putting a viewer through that much discomfort -- to me, the movie was over after the first two hours. Not much was gained by anyone who hung around for more than that length of time. And to tell you the truth, I found it hard to determine what the story line was about.

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I wasn't going to write a review for this movie, but reading so many of the reviews has forced me to another opionion. Please, everyone, stop comparing this movie to "Saving Private Ryan." You're right, the two movies are completely different! This movie was excellent. If you are looking for Rambo, don't see this movie. If you are looking for a drama, written about the men who fight in a war, see this movie. If you want to be challenged by the themes of a powerful movie, see "The Thin Red Line." This film was marked by its subtleties. It is these subtleties, obviously missed by those who didn't enjoy it, which make this movie one of the best war films I have ever seen. The imagery, the narration, and the flashbacks which give the viewer insight into the makeup of the men, challenge the audience to think about what is happening. See this movie. Open your mind to it. Learn from it. Do not see this movie and compare it to "Saving Private Ryan." Don't compare it to any movie. Enjoy it for what it is. Enjoy the movie for its beauty which lies in the subtle flashbacks and images. Enjoy this movie because it shows the audience so much more about the characters than most other movies dare. This is not a traditional Hollywood movie, but that is what makes it so great.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I fell asleep. My friends fell asleep. The guys behind us fell asleep until one of them began snoring. At the end of the 'experience' there was much groaning and I feel that everyone who actually stayed to the end deserves a free pass or two to a real film. This was no 'great cinematic experience'. I would have preferred an import film about banana picking in Africa told in Swahili to this.

Don't waste your money or your time.

Be sure to tell your friends not to waste their money or time either.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000

So bad, so bad, so bad. What a pathetic waste of time and film. Caught somewhere between WWII and a bad poetry reading, this movie was a bad dream. No discernible plot, no character development, and the only memorable piece of acting was Woody Harrelson's poignant realization, "I blew my @&& off!"

I have never seen so many people walk out of a theater in my life. At least the showing I attended was merciful--we never made it to the end (maybe it was an effort to hide the credits of those who would contribute to such drivel). After 3 1/2 hours, the theater just stopped the film, shut the curtains and rewarded everyone still seated with a free pass for next time. I think that says it all.

[--- Good ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
This movie has no critical edge on Saving Private Ryan. The visuals might be better and the color may be more suited to the movie, but it has no where near the intensity or brilliant direction of Saving Private Ryan. I know most poeple might not compare these two films but I am just like SPR was compared with other war films from back in the 40s' and 50's and even back in the 80s'. The Thin Red Line is a good film. It almost as powerful and anti-war as SPR, but SPR has the edge in cinemotagraphy thanks to the D-Day invasion sequence. Both films have a lot in common but they take place in totally different countries and their directors take totally directing techniques.

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000

The Thin Red Line is one of the best films ever, it's also an important film about human spirit and humanity. I would say that it is much better than the so-called best war movie Saving Private Ryan. Here is what it is: Saving Private Ryan is a powerful film but only at the skill( image, acting, sound effects etc.). The core of the story is empty and the level of the the plot is shallow. It keeps showing us how cruel the war is and how poor those dead young men are and telling that humanity is important. but talk about the true meaning of the war, how it effect people and the true destruction a war would bring, Saving Private Ryan won't get a high score. Just like other Spielberg's films- it has something to present but just too unilateral.

Compare to SPR, The Thin Red Line is a deeply moving and emotional film, many people think it's needlessly long and boring because they couldn't be objective, feel the movie and fit into it. They just expected to see an action war film like the first twenty-five minutes of SPR. The Thin Red Line is a great achivement about psychiatry and human nature. It's a strong, complex movie making that has to be seen and understood. See it yourself if you like to feel, you will find lots lots more.( By the way, The score and cinematography were unforgettable!!!)

All the fingers up!!! IT'S A GREAT FILM.

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I'm tired and will write another review later but like a previous critic said before, I have to say something. The film is fantastic and should sweep the Academy Awards. Most of what is so brilliant about it has already been said except how the film contrasted the war of humans to nature, and how nature 'doesn't care.' E.g. - The scene where the terrified soldiers walk by the native. Also, the film shows the reality of death and how it differs from the idea of war and death and military training. E.g. - The scene where the Sgt. sends forward the two men/kids and they get shot within five seconds. People who didn't like it are dense and immature, or just uneducated. The poetry and scenery are beautiful and I can't imagine somebody atleast not being able to relax and enjoy that if they understand nothin else. Also, the themes and ideas are not beaten in. That's just wrong. If anyone would like to share their thoughts with me on the matter please E-mail me at But please, don't waste my mind with unjustified claims and stupidity.

[--- Good ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
This movie will not be for every one, but if you are a true movie connoissseur and not just looking for mindless action, but thoughful reality shown in a new way then this is a See Now! movie.

This is a great great movie about the reality of life, and also the best War film since " All Quiet of the Western Front".

Most people go to moves for escape and thats why mindless action and dumb comendy does so well, but some time give your mind some exercise and see a movie that will make you use it. Exercise can be more then physical exercise.

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Thin Red Line

I find it very interesting that reviewers find this movie a waste of time and movies like Dumb and Dumber etc. not a waste of their time.

Its one of the greatest war movies ever made.

Theresa Tarkington

[--- Good ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
War is long and confusing?

I went in to Thin Red Line expecting a Saving Private Ryan-esque movie, that is to say, a fast paced film with lots of blood and gore and "lets kill the nazis". It became clear from the very beginning that Thin Red Line is not that type of movie. It took a while to change gears, during which time I felt vaguely uncomfortable, as though I was missing important plot points.

The Thin Red Line is based on a novel by James Jones about the WW II battle at Guadalcanal. It shows the battle from the American point of view. The action centers around the battle for a specific hill on the island of Guadalcanal, and the events directly following it.

I could never quite keep track of the characters throughought the film. It was hard to tell people apart, especially in the battle scenes, when helmets obscured their faces. Only after the film ended was I able to match names to faces. Nick Nolte plays glory seeking Lt. Col. Gordon Tall, an old man bitter about being passed over for promotions, who hopes that victory on Guadalcanal will get him promoted. Sean Penn plays a seemingly unfeeling Sergeant named Edward Welsh. James Caviezel portrays Private Witt, who has repeatedly gone AWOL, but is found, arrested and shoved back onto the battlefield where he shows bravery, along with profound mental commentary. Ben Chaplin is Private Bell, a guy who spends the film thinking of the wife he left back in the states. There are a few unfortunate cameos; John Travolta appears with a disturbingly ugly mustache as a high ranking officer. George Clooney mutilates the scene he is in with terrible acting, and by distracting the audience from the story with his presence, which only highlights the superb acting of the rest of the cast.

The movie, directed by Terrence Malick (Badlands and Days of Heaven), is visually stunning. The cinematography, shots of fields of tall grass being pushed about by the wind, of dense jungles cut through by gurgling rivers make one feel as though they were there. Similarly, the scenes of men snapping in battle, of a wounded bird, and repeated shots of nature lying in a state of devastation make a strong impression.

Thin Red Line is much more of a psychological movie than Private Ryan. A hefty percentage of the dialogue takes place in the minds of the characters. It spends plenty of time showing us that war is indeed a bad thing, and continually poses the question "where has the good in mankind gone?" Indeed, with a film that weighs in at nearly three hours, you have plenty of time to think and absorb the ideas and images the film throws at you.

It's slow going, occasionally confusing, and doesn't give the satisfaction that Private Ryan left you with at the end, but The Thin Red Line is worth seeing just the same.

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000

I think many people have false expectations going into this film and, as a result, come away very disappointed. Personally, I was very moved and found the unconventionality of TTRL to be a refreshing perspective in the war genre.

Too often, we are apt to focus on the externals of war in even the best war films: the explosions, the severed limbs and external actions of battle. This form of realism has its advantages and keeps the audience interested, but it also has a tendency to overshadow the more psychological aspects of war and dehumanizes the individual soldier's experience. What The Thin Red Line accomplishes better than any other war film is this: it examinines the psyche of the soldier coming face to face with death.

The Thin Red Line has no traditional plot and it is not a character study. With this film, Malick emotionally distances the audience from the characters and, as a result, the audience has a clearer window into just what it is like--from a variety of perspectives--to know that the next moment could be your very last.

The film's astounding cinematography mirrors this life-and-death theme at every turn. There are close-ups of lush vegitation and exotic wildlife. Water is also a recurring motif in the film. As a symbol of life, it baptizmally rains from the sky, runs through clear streams and drips from the large jungle leaves. However, it is also apparent in a much darker form, as the soldiers must forge muddied, bloodied and murky waters.

The lack of violence also allows for a clearer rumination on life and death. It is almost an in-joke that the only mamed soldiers are shown early in the film and are already dead. There is one striking scene depicting the accidental death of a soldier which is presumably very violent, but absolutely no blood is shown. Instead, the audience is able to focus on the more psychological aspect of death without attention being drawn to the physicality of violence as the dying soldier's commrades gather around him and watch his life fade away.

The soldiers' individual reactions to facing death vary. Some become violent and abusive, others become sick, some run away, some remember home, some turn to God and some deny God's existance, some cannot cope and the ones who can are left to lead.

The poetry of the film is also beautiful, and an excellent device to convey deep emotion where mere dialog or narration would seem trite. These poetic interludes are not meant to convey the personality or intelligence of the individual soldier as much as they provide the audience with a hint of what is going on inside the soldier's head (feelings the soldier himself may not even be consciously aware of).

We are not drawn to any character in particular, nor is there a great deal of emotional attatchment. In fact, many times the characters are difficult to tell apart. Don't let this bother you; the spectrum of individual experience is more important than any individual story line or conventional plot mechanism.

By the time the credits role, you will feel what it is like to crawl through the grass, unable to see a foot ahead of you while knowing that every moment might be your last. Better than any other war film, The Thin Red Line provides the audience with the real psychological experience of being a soldier, where life is precious and death, potentially coming at any second, must be reasoned with.

[--- Good ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I liked this movie but it was not interesting enough to keep my attention for 2 hours and 50 minutes. The only problem I had with this movie is it felt long and I found myself checking my watch frequently for the last half an hour. The movie does make its point about war changing people, even those who are left at home.

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Everything that happened in the world of film this year, preceeding this film, is prolougue. Something About Mary, Saving Private Ryan, the new Psycho, Happiness, Life is Beautiful, Dark City, Babe 2, Primary Colors, Pleasentville, A Bugs Life, What Dreams may Come, Beloved, Very Bad Things, Prince of Egypt, Your Friends and Neighbors, Bulworth, The Butcher Boy, The Opposite of Sex, Buffolo 66, Out of Sight, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Even in a twisted way Godzilla, Armageddon, Wild Things, and Dr. Doolittle. Everything we have seen was put there for preperation of this film. Originality, visual flair, and above all honesty were and still are virtues of this years cinema. As is the audacity and drive for films to question and test our own morality and values. The Thin Red Line has been there. When I say that this is hands down the best film of the year, its not only because it is indeed a great film, but because it embodies all the qualities that all of 1998's great films have. ( This way of thinking is also why The Waterboy was the years worst)

The Thin Red Line is the sort of movie that will silence its cynics. Its a stunning feat. After proclaiming it the greatest modern war film of all time, (which it is) I have finally forgiven Gene Siskel for giving Trees Lounge thumbs down.

I don't think that I would be able to give you an adequete plot summary, the film is somewhat episodic. The soldiers have one mission after another and we watch them carry them out. Anybody can die at any time, and nobody can honestly be called the main character. The perspective primarily switches around between a high -ranking officer played Nick Nolte, and two platoon leaders: played by Sean Penn a character actor whose name eludes me; and a dreamy infantryman. We feel, however, that all the platoons together are the main character.

The film begins with the infantryman living in a complete paradise. Immediatly, I recognized the island as heaven, even more indeliable and beautiful than the one in "What Dreams May Come". He is completely content. One day a ship comes along to take him to war. He meets the Sean Penn character, a real hard-ass, and a relationship begins to envlove. Throughout the film we look at another infantryman, who is constantly optimistic, and fantasizes about his wife who he had left. She seems distant and unattainable and it isn't surprising when he recieves a Dear John letter from her requesting a divorce. While Soldier #2 suffers, for desiring the contact from his wife.

Soldier #1 also counteracts the Nick Nolte character, an obsessed man fighting the war to make up for his dreary life. For the first time he finally has a goal in life. Not quite evil or sadistic, but blind. As he explains to a kind hearted platoon leader who requests water for his men, "If they pass out, let them pass out!"

There is more. Alas I only have so much energy, and I must leave you now. This film is beyond greatness. It occupies a completely different terrain than anything I have ever seen.

This is your warning: The Thin Red Line isn't as much prose as poetry. It deals with ideas and themes, instead of people. Its not for inexperienced filmgoers.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
The Thin Red Line was the biggest waste of three hours that I have ever spent. How this could be nominated for an academy award is way beyond me. Typical political correctness showing the big bad American military killing all of the defenseless Japanese while they are in prayer. The director never bothered to show the faces of any Japanese soldiers as they were cutting down the Americans because this would allow the viewer to personalize these acts of aggression, and heaven forbid that anyone on this planet could kill other than an American!! Also, as they advertise all of these stars to get you to bite on this piece of garbage, they fail to tell you that the majority of them only make a token one minute appearance. Unless you have recently confused Shawn Penn with Clark Gable or Robert Redford or Tom Hanks as far as acting skills go, you are in for a major disappointment. And of course, the liberal minded Hollywood had to show cruelty to animals. Why don't they put their political agendas and massive ego's aside long enough to come up with a plot. I have always found that a plot does help to enhance a film!!!! And finally, that song which is played for three consecutive hours. I'll tell you, I have not had a drink for fifteen years, but that song almost forced me to a local brewery. Enough said. Acting, bad; plot, non-exsistant; music, ouch!!! Stay away.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I don't know what to make of this film. Did I think it was boring? Well, yes. But when I see a film as artistic as this and am bored by it, I think, "Nah, I missed something. It was too intellectual for me. I'm just an ignorant fool." Then, I realize that films are SUPPOSED to be accessible to the audience, and The Thin Red Line was not.

Now, I know that Terrence Malik is supposed to be a great film director. After seeing this film, I still think he is. He made a great two hour move. Unfortunately, this one was three hours long. I really shouldn't have gone to the 11:00 showing.

There are plenty of things to like about this film. First off, the cinematography is fantastic. The intercutting of aspects of nature with scenes of war was an excellent idea. Malik is telling us that through all of mankind's struggles, nature will always remain. Hey, I like it. I'll accept that. The battle scenes are very well paced, when the film decides to get around to them. Malik has definitely transmitted the feeling of being a soldier to the audience. Finally, some of the performances were excellent. I particularly enjoyed Nick Nolte's showy, yet commanding, performance as an aging Colonel who is desperate to make a splash and convince his superiors to finally promote him.

Yeah, the film is definitely very pretty to look at, and it features good performances, outstanding cinematography, and several powerful scenes. There's only one problem: With all of these great-looking pieces, Malik forgot to make a movie! Having a jumble of different characters on separate storylines can work, as long as the film connects them in some way. The Thin Red Line doesn't. Secondly, if you're going to hire unknown actors to play the major roles in the film, don't hire ones that seem to be cloned from the same guy! I can see that maybe Malik is trying to make a statement about how soldiers are faceless in war, etc. Okay. I can accept that point. The movie, however, is extremely hard to follow when the three actors with the most screen time look like each other, and they all look like John Cusack! It sometimes takes you 20 minutes before you realize that this scene has THREE soldiers in it, not just two. Finally, voice-over narration. Flashbacks. Very poetic. They do, however, become annoying and cause the film to drag when not one, not two, but FIVE characters have voice-overs and flashbacks!

I know this film was nominated for several awards and may win. Once again, maybe I missed the whole point of the film. But if I didn't get it, maybe the film could have been more accessible. And shorter.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
This movie is a complete pile of garbage. Of the people that I've personally met who've seen this 'film', not a single one has even the slightest possible good thing to say about it.

The dialogue is stunningly stupid. Nobody would ever speak like that. The acting is TERRIBLE - don't let others trick you. All the actors ever do is look scared. John Travolta? His performance is the worst of the bunch.

I can appreciate a well thought out artsy-fartsy movie as much as the next guy, but this one isn't it. This movie is just plain long, boring, and stupid.

Just as the viewer is starting to figure out a scene - WHAM! - TIME COMPRESSION. Where are we? In the future? In the past? At the zoo? Oh, there's a point to make? I must have missed it while trying to figure out what happened to get me to this scene. Oh yeah, that must be it...I might be catching on now - WHAM! - TIME COMPRESSION again! Oh, I give up. Maybe they'll all just die, at least that would be more interesting.

It's too late for me, but maybe I can save someone else.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
If I had been told at the beginning of 1998 that two high profile World War II movies would be released, one taking the linear, red-blooded, gung ho approach; while the other opted for a more cerebral, metaphysical route, Id have said in an instant that the latter would be the one Id like better. My four favorite war movies of all time are Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, The Deerhunter, and Apocalypse Now. Okay, so theyre all about Vietnam, but they also share a similarity in their departure from the mainstream. "The Thin Red Line" isnt maintream either. But I hated practically every minute of it. Endless voiceovers (one character actually narrates his own death), philosophical meandering, and incomprehensible editing (please explain what the last hour was about) add up to a discombobulated mess of a three hour film. John Travolta wins the award for "Cheesiest Facial Hair" of the year (even topping 1997s winner, Wesley Snipes, for his laughable goatee in "Murder at 1600," but I digress). Speaking of Travolta, he and George Clooney have ridiculously distracting cameos which would completely disrupt the flow of the movie, if there was any flow. Its more important to show alligators and dying birds than to even think about character development. The travelogue-like scenery combined with the god-awful voiceovers finally became unbearable. I had to go purchase a Lemon Ice from the concession stand so I'd have something to do for the last hour. I pretended I was Tim Robbins in "The Shawshank Redemption," chiseling away at my Lemon Ice in an attempt to escape from the prison known as "The Thin Red Line."

10-point scale rating: 2

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
My wife and I went to see The Thin Red Line, partly due to the war theme (following on from the excellent Saving Private Ryan) and also because of the excellent cast. We were both brain-numbingly bored and left extremly confused by the "plot" and the continous dream like sequences as did most (99%) of the audience. The only positive point was that I knew the next session started at 9.30pm so I had a reference point for when to expect a climactic finish (which didn't eventuate). The next day at the gym I let everyone know to avoid the film like the plague as it is 3 hours of headache. That it was nominated for an Academy Award is not surprising. Ever since Cuba Gooding Jnr beat Edward Norton (who was the real star of Primal Fear) for the Best Actor award I have viewed their choices with scepticism. To sum it up - if Basic Instinct was the movie that you see with someone that you want to bonk, then The Thin Red Line is the movie you go to see to practice sleeping at work i.e. in a chair! It was just way over my head.

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I loved this movie. This is not a cheap knock off of Saving Private Ryan both films are in a class by themselves. I couldn't wait for this film to come to my small town. It never did so I just hopped in the car and drove to Atlanta for the weekend. And of course I saw the movie and you can bet all the money that you have that I loved it. My #2 movie of the year.

[--- See Now! ---]by VIP MemberSep 16, 2003
Terrence Malik doesn't talk to the press. He doesn't do the type of thing that other move directors do. He's a privite man and he wanted it kept that way. He rather let his movies do the talking. "The Thin Red Line" is a different type of war movies and those who dislike this movie, you have the right to speak out against it, just as I have the right to praise it. "The Thin Red Line" is a powerful, but different movie that is bold and challenging. It's different because it seperates itself from the traditional war movie. All war movies aren't the same. The film which came out the same year as "Saving Private Ryan" is seen as an indication that the war movies aren't dead after all.

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