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Combat - WWII

The Thin Red Line (1998)

ThinRedLine

Duration 2h 50m Rating (UK) 15
Source of story A novel of the same name by James Jones, based on his experiences in WWII
Director Terrence Malick
Writers/Script Terrence Malick
Starring Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel, Ben Chaplin, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson,  Jared Leto, Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, John C. Reilly, John Travolta,

Elevator Pitch: A Company of American infantry in WWII are landed on Guadalcanal having picked up a couple of deserters on the way. They have instructions to take Hill 210 which is heavily fortified on the summit  with Japanese bunkers, machine guns and fox holes. Their colonel requires them to make a frontal assault which they do not do due to protests from their captain on the ground with them. Mostly held down on their faces by enemy gunfire they think about their lives and people they have left, and maybe what is in store.

Content: We meet with the guys who have gone AWOL living happily in a  native village. On the hill they crawl about held down by machine gun fire. There are occasional visits to their past lives, particularly the wives who are seen in etherial lighting.  The colonel shouts a lot and exchanges radio communication with the men on the ground, and sometimes has face to face arguments. There are a lot of shots of sunlight through leaves and wind on the long grass.

A View: If you are not familiar with Terrence Malick’s work this might be a good start, despite its length. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 80% but there were criticisms from many critics about the characterisation of the soldiers. In truth it was difficult to tell one from another; they wore helmets and were pretty grubby and only some of the time did we know what was going on. There is a load of background info about the film, one of the more entertaining items being that no matter how important the star, they may not have got much screen time, and several ended up on the cutting room floor. But if you are a war movie fan it will pass the time pretty well.

Additional Info: In the book the central character is Corporal Fife, played by Adrien Brody in the film, so he though he would be centre stage. He was surprised when the saw the film that he only had a few words of dialogue.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels

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