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The Thin Red Line

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Thin Red Line

Starring: John Cusack, Sean Penn
Director: Terrence Malick
Rated: R
RunTime: 170 Minutes
Release Date: January 1999
Genres: Action, Drama, War

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Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

Writer/director Terrence Malick, known as the J.D. Salinger of the movies, is the near-mythic Harvard graduate, Rhodes Scholar, former journalist and philosophy professor who has exiled himself from Hollywood's film industry for nearly two decades after making "Badlands" and "Days of Heaven." Now he's back with this screen adaptation of James Jones' novel about the men in an Army Rifle company, C-for-Charlie, who suffer and change, making psychological discoveries about themselves, as they attempt to capture a Japanese base on an island in the South Pacific during the W.W.II battle of Guadalcanal. The casts consists of Sean Penn (a cynical sergeant), Nick Nolte (an ambitious officer), Elias Koteas (their conscience-stricken leader), Woody Harrelson (a doomed sergeant), John Cusack (a self-sacrificing captain), John Travolta (with a mustache) George Clooney (in a cameo), with Ben Chaplin and newcomer Jim Caviezel as the two pivotal privates. Filmed in Port Douglas, a coastal community near Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the cinematography is filled with sweeping imagery and the story is punctuated with fierce bursts of energy and as Malick explores how the various men confront fear. While his sense of irony and humanity is evident, Malick's abstract, emotionally detached style just doesn't seem to mesh with the structured urgency of a combat tale. The pace is ponderous, filled with contemplative, philosophical musings about God and nature and the insanity of war. Malick's metaphors are often opaque in meaning and pretentious, if not condescending, as dialogue, like "The closer you are to Caesar, the greater the fear." On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Thin Red Line" is a meditative 7, a bizarre war movie.

Copyright 2000 Susan Granger

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