The Thin Red Line (1998)



Director:     Terrence Malick.

Starring:     Sean Penn (sergeant), Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel (pacifist soldier), Ben Chaplin, Nick Nolte (Lt. Col. who wants glory), Elias Koteas (resists his Lt. Col.), John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Jared Leto, Dash Mihok, Tim Blake Nelson, John C. Reilly, John Savage, George Clooney, John Travolta, Nick Stahl, Shawn Hatosy.


The movie is o.k., but nothing more.  I was disappointed with the movie because there was very little idea of the ebb and flow of the battle.  It seemed that the movie was more about the personal conflicts within the army, than between the army and the Japanese. I'm sure there was a lot of pettiness within the army, as there always is whenever there is a large group of people are involved, but why concentrate on that side of the story?  And what does all this fighting have to do with Guadalcanal?  How does their sacrifice fit into the larger picture? 

Nick Nolte plays the part of the Lt. Col. who is willing to sacrifice the lives of other in order to win awards and recognition for his his unit, and, thereby, for himself.  With only his self-interest in mind, he makes a terrible commander.  He refused to listen to others, even when he was receiving valuable intelligence.  But his was deafened and blinded by egotism.

There are lots of smaller glimpses of the lives of some of the men.  But you can't develop character without greater information about the individual stories highlighted.  For instance, Jim Caviezel, the supposed pacifist soldier, suddenly appears with a rifle in hand and he later even volunteers for a dangerous mission.  How did that happen?  What mental gymnastics did he have to go through to turn from a pacifist to a gung-ho soldier?

I like Malick's use of  narration of the internal thoughts of the men.  But mostly the men asked one question after another without any hopes of finding an answer.  Should men in combat be day-dreaming and philosophizing so much?  Wouldn't that interfere with the chances of surviving in battle for the individual soldier and his fellow soldiers?

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.       


Historical Background:


See Guadalcanal Diary (1943) .



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