Plot – A group of soldiers face an unlikely battle at the Guadalcanal, where they fight all odds in order to survive. As the war progresses, they lose out on each other while still hoping to win the war – The Thin Red Line
Director – Terrence Malick
Released – 1998
Devoid of a singular hero and no real plot to speak of, The Thin Red Line is sometimes reviewed harshly when compared to Spielberg’s anti-war masterpiece Saving Private Ryan which came out the same year which I can’t help but feel is slightly unfair on the film that marked the end of Malick’s 20-year hiatus from filmmaking, which I feel because of the films style and plot progression would be better compared to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Unlike most war films in which we follow one or a group of soldiers over the course of the film, learning more about them and what makes them tick, however, when it comes to The Thin Red Line, during the conflict it’s Charlie Company that we follow, with multiple characters coming and going throughout the runtime and highlighting just how much of moving beast the conflict was and how interchangeable each of the soldiers might be, no matter their rank or the importance of their previous actions. Unlike “Ryan,” Malik asks the audience profound questions that, like in 2001, aren’t always answered.
Now, I’m not going to argue that this is a film without flaws. There are some absolutely, for example, the dream sequences that feel over-indulgent at times and take away from the realism. Or the use of big-name stars such as Clooney and Travolta in blink-and-you-miss-them roles, which felt like a missed opportunity given the amount of screen time devoted to lesser actors.
This isn’t to say that the acting of the entire cast wasn’t superb, it was, it’s just when you have someone of the quality of Clooney given three or four lines at the end of the film, you can’t help but feel a little short-changed. When it comes to The Thin Red Line, you get Oscar-calibre direction, cinematography and acting, which makes it one of the best war films of the ’90s and may well have split the votes just enough to prevent Saving Private Ryan from winning Best Picture and handing it to Shakespeare in Love.