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This is not a movie for everyone. In fact, this is a film that a lot of you will hate with every fibre of your being. And still, for others they will appreciate the films beauty, but tire of the poetic narrations. And then for more of y’all... well, you’ll embrace it and love it and look towards Hollywood and say, “About time.”

About time.

My review isn’t what YOU are going to think about this film, so just turn off the ‘what YOU thought of the film’ button, and listen about my thoughts on Malick’s latest film.

First, I want to let all of ya know I love this movie completely. But I sat in a theater and watched an exodus of movie patrons that couldn’t stand to watch just one more frame of film. Most of the audience stayed with it. As I sat in the darkness of the end credits I heard people exclaim about what a piece of shit it was. How the film had no value whatsoever. How it was beautiful. How it was brilliant. Like all good works of art, it divides the audience and provokes conversation.

Here’s my side of that conversation....

If I lost 150 pounds, lived in World War II and was on Guadacanal.... this was my story.

I’ll explain...


I love the jungle. When I was a kid, some may still call me that, but they are old farts. As I was saying, when I was a kid, my parents would take me to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala. Instead of going to the tourist spots, we seeked out the areas that we wouldn’t find Americans. We wanted to go AWOL from our culture and the thoughts of our culture.

We would sleep in grass huts. I remember one time waking up to find a Havelina Boar licking at my face as I rolled laughing to get away from it. I called her Petunia, in the village... well we were eating Porky.

I remember walking through the jungle looking up at the undercarriage of the jungle canopy. Layers upon layers of leaves, some eaten away, but it was like a kaleidoscope. The sky between the parts seemed to always be overexposed, probably from my eyes being so used to the darkness the jungle provided.

The jungle teemed with life. Toucans, parrots, monkeys, alligators and on and on. I was always lagging behind my parents as they swung their machete in search of a waterfall that was in this general direction. We would hear the Howler monkeys in the shadows our eyes couldn’t pierce. I remember the sounds of a boar being ripped to pieces by a jaguar. It’s quite a vivid memory.

I remember the people that lived there. They ground grain on these stone grinders that they made or their great grand parents made. I remember it all. And I’ve always wanted more films in that setting, because for me it is a cherished memory. Pushing the undergrowth away from my face, climbing on vines, scaling the face of a waterfall. I love these pictures I carry with me. John Boorman’s THE EMERALD FOREST did a pretty good job of laying those images out for me, but Malick and his team completely captured it.

I remember when we found the savage carcass of the boar in the jungle. It’s reds a stark contrast to the lush greens. The abnormally large flies (or so I thought at the time, I was much shorter then) buzzing and laying eggs in it’s drying blood.

Add to that setting, that idyllic natural setting, the instruments for war. The fear that in those shadows more than Howler Monkeys lie in wait. In constant anticipation for the flash of a gun blast. This is the sort of thing I just don’t want to even contemplate. This was war in the Pacific. Hours of walking with out anything, then from above in a banana tree, gunfire. The person you talked with about how you hate boats drops with his guts on the ground.... what do you do?

You try to survive.


War, for me is never something you win, but rather something you try to survive as humane as possible. And it’s not my natural state to be in war. In fact my natural state is horizontal on this here bed typing to you the tickings of my brain. So in war, I would imagine my inner thoughts would stay intensely focused during the actual battles and gunfire. You have to be. It’s the only way to survive. Watching the exit wounds of your allies to determine enemy positions, so you can eliminate them and survive for the next day. You try to put out of your mind that it’s Wally, that he has a brother back home that draws cartoons of Captain America kicking ass for the good ol U.S. of A. Instead, he’s like a licked finger to determine the breeze. Of course, the moment you’re safe your thoughts would wander to Wally, Chip and Johansen.

But do they? Do your thoughts fall upon your fallen comrades as you sit watching the bodies being hauled off on stretchers, or do you think about that girl on the diving board that in mid-leap locked eyes on you before disappearing into the pool. Or do you think about the last time your lips parted from your lover the last day you saw her, or perhaps it’s the first meeting of those lips, or the waving of your mother’s hand to bid you farewell and a safe journey.

This is what is going on in Malick’s narration. Now I know, a lot of people hate narration. They don’t like to be told what to think, well here... it’s not like being told what to think, it isn’t a Sam Spade style narration where all the pieces are being put together. Instead it’s the internalized thoughts of someone soul searching.

What do we think of when the world doesn’t make sense and things aren’t going the way we want? Do we dwell on the problem? Sure... for a bit, but then for me, and I don’t presume to tell you what your internalized thoughts are, but for me it’s often times questions about how I found myself in the situation I’m in. I think about when things were better, where I turned wrong, how do I get back, can I get back, remember that film party out back when folks were roasting marshmallows as lightning bugs lit up, the smell of my father’s brisket on the fire and Pam Grier blowing the head off that drug dealing bastard, while Annette Kellerman exclaimed “Yes” and I took a swig of Guinness and thought about how cool she and Betty Boop are.

That’s how my internalized thoughts work. The above paragraph was exactly what I was thinking about, the images that formed. And in the order you see them. Sure I didn’t go into the reflection of Pam Grier kicking ass in Annette’s eyes as she mouthed the words, “this is sooo cool”, but it’s there... unspoken written before my mind’s eye.

This movie is deeply introspective for the characters we see. We see images they think of, we hear thoughts they hear, the sounds they focus on around them, their point of view through it all and the context it is all in. For me, it’s brilliant. It’s refreshing to see, not that all films need to be like this, oh dear God no, but from time to time I would like a movie that hits these type of notes and chords.

There are themes all through this film. In fact each soldier has his own (no not the Zimmer score which was fantastic) and often times it has something to do with ‘where all this evil comes from?’

A pretty apparent and easy thought to conjure when the dead and dying surround you. When in the trees you see the most amazing colored bird you’ve ever seen. And you don’t know what type of bird it is, you don’t know what that snake can do, but you know it’s not planning a flanking maneuver around that python over there. Or so you think.

I’ve often felt I would be useless in a war, why? Well, not because I’m a coward and wouldn’t stand up and fight for my country, but rather... I have a firm belief that there is no difference between you... and me.

It’s the fundamental belief that my site is formed on. My opinion is not better or more right than yours or anybody else’s. It is merely my opinion, AND I want to hear yours. Why? Because I like to know what it’s like to be different people. To be... not me. In this film a couple of the characters see this. When they look at the indigenous people they see a father teaching a son, a mother grooming a daughter. When he looks at the Japanese prisoners of war he sees fear and uncertainty, he sees prayers and he sees a hope to live for another day. He’s seen those images before from his own father and mother, from his fellow soldiers when they were pinned down. We are the same, but each wonderfully unique with our own masterful images dancing in our heads.

Just a bit ago I typed that I’d be useless in war because I believe that fundamentally we are all the same. You and me. The problem is, because of the Internet, I know that YOU could be above the Mason-Dixon line (so there go them Southern Loyalties), YOU could be in New Zealand or Russia or South Africa or Japan or Germany. You could be a movie exec or a janitor, but YOU are here to read about film and to celebrate it with me. Why now or anytime should I kill you?

That’s the toughy question. It isn’t asked in so many words in this film. But this film isn’t about answering and asking questions. This is art. You take what you will with you.

If you look at this film and see shit. That’s what you saw. And that is the perfect opinion from you. For me, I saw so many things and had so many thoughts while I watched that canvas for 3 hours that... I could type for days...

...and That’s my review for THE THIN RED LINE.

Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 13, 1999, 2:28 a.m. CST


    by Schmeggy

    I would just like to express my thanks to Harry. Your review shows me that this movie is one I would be interested in seeing. A film that sticks in your mind after you leave the theater. Not a quick entertainment fix, a la Jerry Bruckheimer, that entertains as you watch but after you leave the building, you feel empty. Your mind is on other things as soon as you close the car door to go home. I desire to see movies that make me say "Screw the radio, I need to talk about what I just saw" Even if I am the only one in the car. So again I say thanks.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 3:20 a.m. CST

    thanks too

    by Mathias

    There's no other movie I'm looking forward to more than this one, mainly because of this review. I've heard a lot of good things about it before but now I'll be there opening day.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 4:48 a.m. CST


    by gg


  • Jan. 13, 1999, 6:31 a.m. CST


    by WalkHome

    Always enjoy your reviews Mr Knowles but I'm not sure any piece of film, viewed in the comfort of a THX equipped cinema, is ever going to really illustrate the horror of warfare. In a way though I guess I'm asking myself if cinema should document as well as illustrate and interpret. I think I know what I'm talking about...... And hey..... "I may not agree with everything you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it" or something along those lines.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 6:38 a.m. CST

    Wonderful and Awful

    by Perfect Tommy

    I was at the screening lat night too. I thought the film was wonderful. Some images will be burned into my brain for a long time. The flashbacks to the wife were haunting. In fact, "haunting" is probably a perfect description of the film. It is a lyrical, moving triumph. Work with this movie when you see it. This is a very complex film that has a lot going on on many levels and would benefut from repeated viewings to take it all in. Saving Private Ryan made me feel for the soldiers of America. This film made me feel for _ALL_ soldiers and the hell they go through. It's asks important questions on the nature of war, evil, human nature, love, the purpose of existence, God, and death. Supreme images, wonderful acting, an incredible score, and complex execution of the themes all added up to make this a wholly satisfying experience for me. If you are the "rah rah" type who thinks wars are cool, then you need not apply. This is a film for those who are sickened by the thought of war. May this scale of warfare never again happen. See this film. Be moved. Change.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 6:58 a.m. CST

    Malik's Line

    by Colleen

    I agree with everything in this review. The film was incredible (and my 18 year old son thought the same). When the film ended the first thing my son said was "That was like poetry." The images are outstanding. The one that especially moved me was the sight of a line of soldiers walking into combat as a local person is strolling beside them in the other direction. War happens where people live. More than any other war film I have seen (though I have to admit I haven't seen "Ryan"), the participants were human to me. The acting was superb, though I would point out Nick Nolte and Elias Koteas, and the narrator whose name escapes me, not to slight any other actor in the film. I would certainly recommend this film, though I know it will not be for everyone.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 7:26 a.m. CST

    The largest chunk of dog excrement ever

    by Chumquat

    I saw this long, boring movie with 4 other people, who hated it, and heard about a bunch of geezers that loved the hell out of it. I'm sorry, but I came damn near crying from the utter dissappointment. There is a good movie somewhere in here, the movie was just too long, by about 50 minutes. This makes "The Horse Whisperer" look like an animated short. This movie breaks new ground in boredom.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 7:58 a.m. CST

    Not for those with short attention spans

    by HAL9000

    This film will definitly not appeal to the SAVING PRIVATE RYAN crowd who are interested solely in witnessing gruesome death sequences and a never ending supply of hideous atrocities. Granted that Spielberg's film was a damn good piece of celluloid, Malick's film succeeds where Spielberg fails in the emotional context of the soldiers and their plight. It doesn't surprise me in the least bit that so many people are reacting negatively to the films hypnotically poetic stature. I imagine that many of the individuals who saw the film were expecting a conventional Hollywood war flick with a barrage of stock characters and an aimlessly upbeat denouement. Sorry fellas, you're in Malick country. I think it's fitting that these people feel that this project is reprehensible...who cares! Let them have their ARMAGEDDONS and their PATCH ADAMS and their I STILL KNOW'S and all the other disposable films that are spoon fed by jagoff movie studios who know exactly which crowds will flock to witness their shameless excuses for entertainment. For a film to be truly significant, it must provoke thought and entertain while functioning on several different internal levels. For me, that is an ample description of what Malick has done with his latest creation. The majority of films that reap box office glory are filled to the brim with dastardly plot manipulations that exist solely to attract a mass audience of mindless drones. I can't begin to tell you how refreshing it is when filmmakers like Malick go against all the typical forms of convention to manifest an original creation that bears no resemblence to the majority of feeble profit scroungers. It's assuring to know that some filmmakers still have balls.

  • Malick's new movie is Monster 0 of one filmmaker you either love or hate returning from the 70's to make a movie in 1999. Up next, is Monster 1 known as George Lucas whom many people here hate for not making 9 more Star Wars films. Then, it's Monster 2 whose new film comes July 16, 1999. Monster 2 called Stanley Kubrick is the ultimate love him or hate him filmmaker. Reading these complaints on TalkBack of either loving Malick or and hating Malick is cute. I've been telling people, Malick's movie would cause controversy...did anybody listen to me ? Nope, it's just Star Wars, Star Wars to you folks. Angry or liking or having no real view on The Thin Red Line ? Don't worry. The battle may be over but the war is just beginning. These opposing views on a movie is just one big warm-up for the discussions we'll be having about a certain WB film called Eyes Wide Shut.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 9:13 a.m. CST



    Everyone (including Harry) keeps saying how "beatiful" this film is. How "poetic" it is. I'm sorry, but the last time I checked, war was supposed to be like hell on earth. Literally. It's not supposed to be pretty. It's not supposed to inspire. It's supposed to kick your ass!!! And that's exactly what Saving Private Ryan did. I came out of Ryan feeling like I had just been through a war. And isn't that what films are supposed to do? Put you in the middle of a situation, a time, and a place? I know it's a little stupid to be judging a film before I see it, but I trust Harry to tell me exactly what the film did to him personally; and from what I read, I think it made him feel like dressing up in a ballerina outfit and start doing twirls around a pile of grenades. And America is supposed to hate war? Yeah right!

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 9:18 a.m. CST

    The Thin Red Line

    by darius25

    Great Review Harry, although I have to admit that I do not agree with you. I was pretty much disappointed with the film. I found the film to be too confusing and artsy for me to enjoy. I did however enjoy the cinematography and that kick-ass sequence with John Cusack. By the way, the flashbacks to the wife was one of the most annoying things i have ever seen in the movie. I never at one moment felt anything about Ben Chaplin. Saving Private Ryan is a thousand times better movie than this. (All of this is my opinion and none of you have to agree with me!! )

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 9:39 a.m. CST


    by d'Artagnan

    I plan to see The Thin Red Line with my father, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam. I like to see any war film with him so I could see his reaction to the film. Was it realistic? Did he experience anything like that in Vietnam. I remember watching the film Platoon with my Dad throughout the film he kept on muttering that this was not how Vietnam was. The reason I like to see war films with my father is because it gives him a chance to let out his anger over the war. His anger was not over any experience in combat, but how the soldiers were treated by the press and anti-war protesters, saying the soldiers were drug addicts and child murderers. This was the reason he did not like Platoon (He also said the battle sequiences were not realistic; I believe his experiences were just different from Oliver Stone) For the most part my father enjoyed his experiences in Vietnam. He has many funny stories his experience, such as when a soldier accidentally pulled the pin of his grenade, in which quickly threw it away and ran like hell. At that moment two Viet Cong soldiers ran out firing at the soldier right where the grenade landed. Watching The Thin Red Line with my father, I could see if his experiences are similar to the soldiers in the movie, just like my sister and I did while watching Saving Private Ryan, which my father said had the most realistic battle scenes he has ever seen. Though he had some minor criticisms. Such as after the soldiers had captured their section of Omaha beach, the camara pans across the dead bodies on the beach. My dad complained that their were not any body parts in this scene, since soldiers were blown to pieces while storming the beach(nearly half of the casualties in D-day were from Omaha beach) Some things to say about my dad. he was in the army for five years before he got sent to Vietnam. he had special training, so he was more prepared for combat than someone who was drafted. Only bad experience that I know of my dad experiencing was when he was in a situation were he was sure he was going to die, but it didn't happen. He will not say much about this. sorry for rambling for so long. Its just that my Dad is very intimidating(try following in his footsteps, growing up poor on a farm, going to Vietnam and now running a very successful business). But I always try to undrstand him.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 9:57 a.m. CST

    war films

    by Everett Robert

    I too se war films with my father who served in Vietnam, an dintrestingly he said tht Apocolypse Now was crap but Platoon and Full Metal Jacket showed how 'Nam was. I plan on seeing TRL with him and you know what I'm sure he'll be disappointed simply because of it's length and the way it's shot. As i read some of these other talkback, the unintelligent ones, the ones that read "this film was horse shit, it really sucked" I wonder, if these people have even every SEEN a Malick film. Malick is an art film directior who explores the worlds of war(i.e Thin Red Line) or crime(BadLands) Malick's films aren't for everyone but should be viewed by everyone...of course that's just my opinion and I could be wrong

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 10:10 a.m. CST

    have a little respect

    by Santouche

    I get disturbed when I see so many so-called movie fans reacting negatively to poetic, visually-charged filmmaking. I've not yet seen Terrence Malick's new movie, but judging from his two other big movies, which offered drop-dead gorgeous photography and sparse, minimal dialogue, the guy knows how to establish mood. In movie-making, this is an underrated talent. And as for pretense, which many dismiss Malick as being full of, couldn't it be that his off-the-cuff or stream of conscious approach is an invitation to viewers to participate in the process? It seems like Malick actually has more respect for his audience that he would give them the gift of having their own unique experience, instead of aggresively letting them know exactly what they will feel and when. It's the elusive quality in his films that appeals to me. Whether it's a war movie (I disagree strongly with the argument that the "purpose" of a war movie is to transport the audience into the heat of battle), comedy, mystery or whatever genre, Terrence Malick's apparent irreverence, respect and delight for the art of filmmaking is something we should see much more of. Thank you very much.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 10:23 a.m. CST

    Red Line

    by SoulBrother

    Harry. Thanks for the insightful review, as usual. You forgot to mention how Malick portraits the war in a metaphysical level -- East (Earthly symbols -Fire, Water, Light, humble beings) being invaded by West (Mechanized, Conflicted Oriented, Strong Egos) which I think is one of the main themes for this film. "Thin Red Line" is a grand film in the tradition of "Seventh Seal" and "2001:Space Odyssey". Grand in the topics it tries to tackle not it the props' or stars' budget. It is a film that breaks the Syd Field\three act\linear narrative\cookie cutter formula. Also, I felt sorry for Malick for being rushed to complete this film, so that the studio will win a couple of those year-end trophies. There are certain passages in the film I felt could use a little bit more trimming or expanding, especially toward the end of it. Like many, I will not recommend this film to everyone. I usually ask the person curious about this film with the following question: "Do you ENJOY The Seventh Seal?" And if they give me a dumb founded look or say NO to it, I will recommend them to Life is Beautiful or another film instead. Unsettling is not a bad thing. I remember saying "What the Fu_k is that?" after I saw 2001, Seventh Seal and Apocalypse Now. Those are what I called "High Bandwidth" films that I doubt anyone can honestly say they can fully appreciate them in their first sitting. Expectation is the worst enemy for all art lovers, especially for us film geeks. For those who didn't like the film, I will recommend you guys to let the film's images time to resonate a little bit. And when the DVD comes out, watch it again after (re)watching the other three films I mentioned. I bet your opinion will change. Remember that little film called "It's a Wonderful Life", which all the critics panned back when it was first released? Ten years from now, when all the Titanic disks are collecting dust in our basements, we'll still be debating about this film. Yes, forget Star Wars, the Kubrick count down is ON!

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 10:27 a.m. CST

    Memorable images

    by Griffin Mill

    Listening to complaints about the slow pace of the movie, I kept thinking about how I felt when I was watching "Ryan" back in July. As we all now know, Spielberg's movie begins with a bravura piece of film making; the assault on Omaha beach sequence will almost certainly win him another Oscar. It is a devasting bombardment of images and sound, fast-moving cameras and rapid cross-cutting that puts you right in the thick of the madness. After that incredible opening, the movie started to examine the emotions of the men in the platoon to far less impressive effect. There was nothing in this part of the movie that we hadn't already seen a hundred times in other combat movies. However in "The Thin Red Line" we get something altogether different: a movie sold by Fox (desperate to regain their untold millions) as a combat movie like "Ryan", but that is in reality a slow moving art-house movie of incredible images and deep, philosophical musings. Have we ever seen such a complex examination of the psychological impact of warfare on soldiers before? A great little First World War movie from a year or two back called "Regeneration" comes to mind, but other than that... I don't believe that you have to be patient to appreciate this movie, but you do need to go in without the expectations that the movie's advertising creates: don't expect another action-packed "Ryan". Go more with the expectation of an "Apocalypse Now"-type experience. Yes, you might feel the movie pretentious at times, but don't leave early. Give the movie a chance to permeate your brain. Live it. Experience that priceless moment towards the end of the movie when you read the thoughts of Sean Penn's character from his expression as he listens to George Clooney giving a dull morale-boosting speech to the troops. This is the kind of thing that makes this movie special. it dares to let the audience think about what it's like to be a soldier facing death at any moment. It is an impressive effort.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 11:05 a.m. CST

    The Thin Red Line

    by dcinok1966

    As a Theatre Manager located in the hoppin' city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, I have the luxury of seeing movies before the general public does. But, unfortunately I don't have luxury of being in a BIG CITY, where they release movies so they can be considered for the OSCARS of that past year. So, having not seen The Thin Red LIne Yet, (I will screen it for work on Jan. 14th) I can't write a legitimate review. Having seen some of the trailers, it has my undivided attention. Maybe it is due to the editing work for a trailer or maybe it's due to my having been in the military for four years as well as my father and his brothers all serving in the military. I think Hollywood is still concerened about dollar signs, and what constitutes a hit. A hit meaning it made more money than it took to produce, such as it was in the case of TITANTIC. As for Art which is the other side of the battle in Hollywood(the moguls against the artist) it may be a very beautiful film to watch as far as I can tell from the trailers we have at the theatre. So, after I screen The Thin Red Line on the 14th I will return to update my opinion on this movie and it could very well be determined by a Thin Red Line of artwork and story telling and that old telling sixth sense of opinion making feelings that lay inside every movie going individual across the country. Bye from the heartland of the Country, Oklahoma.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 11:06 a.m. CST

    The Thin Red Line

    by dcinok1966

    As a Theatre Manager located in the hoppin' city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, I have the luxury of seeing movies before the general public does. But, unfortunately I don't have luxury of being in a BIG CITY, where they release movies so they can be considered for the OSCARS of that past year. So, having not seen The Thin Red LIne Yet, (I will screen it for work on Jan. 14th) I can't write a legitimate review. Having seen some of the trailers, it has my undivided attention. Maybe it is due to the editing work for a trailer or maybe it's due to my having been in the military for four years as well as my father and his brothers all serving in the military. I think Hollywood is still concerened about dollar signs, and what constitutes a hit. A hit meaning it made more money than it took to produce, such as it was in the case of TITANTIC. As for Art which is the other side of the battle in Hollywood(the moguls against the artist) it may be a very beautiful film to watch as far as I can tell from the trailers we have at the theatre. So, after I screen The Thin Red Line on the 14th I will return to update my opinion on this movie and it could very well be determined by a Thin Red Line of artwork and story telling and that old telling sixth sense of opinion making feelings that lay inside every movie going individual across the country. Bye from the heartland of the Country, Oklahoma.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 11:46 a.m. CST

    Thin Red Line

    by Lando C.

    This was a beautiful film that was majorly flawed.It ran into trouble when it tried to deal with plot. If it was either an hour shorter or three hours longer, The Thin Red Line could have been one of the greatest war films ever made.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 12:25 p.m. CST

    Don't compare with Saving Private Ryan

    by crashcolucci

    I am a 21 year old film crazed fan from New York who has been awaiting this film since the news first came out. I love war movies and with the cast involved was physched to see it last week. I liked the movie because I sorta knew what to expect from Malick. I knew to expect the narratives, the camera shots, long pacings, and nature. My seven friends did not and they all hated this movie. It just does not appeal to a "mainstream" audience. I'm sure everyone involved knew this coming in. It is not for Saving Private Ryan lovers as the two movies are totally different and both great in their own way. The one thing I can say though is the performances in Ryan were better than Red Line. The actors in Red Line did not have enough time to flesh out characters besides some great work by Nolte, Cavaziel, Chaplin, and Koteas. Thanks Harry Keep up the good work

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 2:54 p.m. CST

    My take on The Thin Red Line

    by Jack Burton

    This is one of the most ambitious films I have ever seen. And also one of the most flawed. The meaning of the film as a whole can be taken many different ways. My girlfriend thinks it represents the progression of one man through war: That Witt with his love of nature and innocent outlook is how you would enter it, all the way through to the soldier at the end who says he feels nothing. She is coming at it from a theater and acting background where plot is not as important as the concept involved. I came at it from a movie and script perspective and was not real fond of it as a whole. Some of the acting was exceptional (Elias Koteas and Woody Harrelson were great, although Harrelson's involvement was very short.) but the characters are not around long enough to get much empathy or feeling for them. Even when you do get to know some of the characters (Cusack and Nolte come to mind) they dissappear and you never see them again. The only characters you truly see through to their individual endings are Staros {Koteas} and Witt {the nature guy}. This is jarring and extremely irritating. When they died I didn't care nearly as much as in Saving Private Ryan. The voice-over narration drove me nuts because most of those men would not have those thoughts in that form in their head. It was too poetic and it felt like one person's outlook, not the different men the way it is portrayed. The story isn't so much a narrative as much as its a snapshot of that time and those men. None of the characters is truly fleshed out and their individual outlooks and motives is never really presented. The concept I took away was every man has to hold on to the one thing that can keep them going; a wife, a view that the world is good, God, etc. But I got the idea an hour and a half into it and for most of the rest was simply impatient. The film is simply too long and too scattered to live up to its potential. It could have been truly brilliant if it had been more focussed and cut about an hour of footage. As it stands it is most likely the most expensive art-house war film ever made. By the way, what happened to Private Bell? Did he just dissappear like John Cusack and Nick Nolte's characters?

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 5:26 p.m. CST

    the thin red line

    by Locutus54

    Im not going to ramble on like most of you and go into deep, descriptive thought and all that good stuff about this movie...but i am going to say that this is one of the best movies i have ever seen...i, unfortunately, have not seen anything else by Malick(but that is about to change), so i was walking into the theatre 2 hours early, expecting a SavingPR experience, due to the trailers......but i am glad i did not get that, instead i got a very very good film that im sure will be a contender for best direction if not best picture....but lets not sit here and say that its going to win this award or that award because i think what the movie goer gets out of the film is the real reward...i left that theatre and did not stop thinking about this movie until around lunchtime today...i thought about the cinematography, the direction, the fact that i was confused by very little dialogue, but at the end i appreciated it, and how many people this movie is not for, and how many are going to like it....and how it is not for the short attention spanned people out there...since we were on the subject of themes, well i felt the theme was focused on how beautiful nature is and what the ugliness of war can do to it, and that every man does need something to hold onto...oh and if you insist on getting a comparison to SPR, which is hard because this is different from anything i have seen, SPR is SHIT in the shadow of this movie...

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 6:55 p.m. CST

    Weird Review, Movie Looks Good

    by Clockwork Taxi

    Strange review. I think I would fight, but I would look at the bright side to the war. I sure want to see this movie, NICK NOLTE RULES!!!!!

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 6:56 p.m. CST

    Weird Review, Movie Looks Good

    by Clockwork Taxi

    Strange review. I think I would fight, but I would look at the bright side to the war. I sure want to see this movie, NICK NOLTE RULES!!!!!

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 7:48 p.m. CST

    "Wait a minute? You mean there's no Ben Affleck?!"

    by Peyton Westlake

    Had an odd experience watching this film at the theatre. A bit jarring in some cases to hear the Harry Knowles lookalike in front of me say things like "piece o' shit Jap bastards" when the film would cut to some Japanese POWs praying or crying. It was the same way someone would cheer at Arnold offing the main bad guy in a movie. I was also a bit disturbed by the father and daughter (sounded 7 years old to me) behind me. Occasionally when another battle would break out, she would whine "the Japanese guys, again?" the same way a kid would complain about having meatloaf for dinner again. Toward the end, the girl then began to quietly (not enough) sing a couple verses from N'Sync and Spice Girls (I'm ashamed for even recognizing those lyrics in the first place). "Why don't they fight like, Russians or French?" took the prize, in my opinion. You could sense the boredom in the audience; people were walking out in groups. I guessed they sensed that somehow there wasn't going to be cool fight scenes or taglines, and were hoping to see George Clooney go Peacemaker on the enemy (he only appears a few minutes, tops). It may get nominated for some Oscars, but I don't see this winning at all. The movie looks like it'll open big and then be killed by word-of-mouth. The word-of-mouth that gave "Boogie Nights" a low Cinemascore grade (and killed it's chances at huge B.O.). The same word-of-mouth that drove people away from "Out of Sight". And the same word of mouth that proclaim "Patch Adams" as a must-see.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 8:01 p.m. CST

    One of the best films I've seen in the 90's & all time

    by Krycek

    Well I saw The Thin Red Line a while ago in westwood and i plan on seeing it again. It's obvious some people just can't get into the film, these are mainly the type of people that are the reason films like Armagedon, Deep Impact, Godzilla, are made.. Now a days people want their drama and art films...but they want their action in them films have become blandand example of this is SPR..yes i didnt blink before 30 minutes of the film had past, but after that its was dullsville from their out. every ten minutes there would be a bit of action, a morality lesson, and then someone would die from the group....I could almost predict which character was going to die and when. The only character in really was moved by was the medic. This film is very much in my mind..similar to Apocaolypse Now.. I would rate this as being much better. Both of these films..i doubt anyways are an acuarte portrayal of the Vietnam and WW2 was and what happened in them.. No i doubt soldiers were contemplating the nature of their existence vs. nature etc.... were they thinking of their last moments with their wife..actually some probally were. becasue thats the only thing that kept them from going insane due to the fact that at any moment their body could be ripped apart by piercing bullets. My hear ached when Bell read his letter from his wife...even though most people saw it coming..i didn't...becuase i was to caught up in the different soldiers as they walked in and out of the frame. I didn't know who was going to die...I liked how characters like Woody Harrelson and Jared Leto came into the frame and then died...even movie stars arent safe from the randomness and unpredicatablitly of war and death...Is the film trying to show how war is beautiful..HELL NO!!! It's showing how beautiful NATURE pure it is..and how MAN"S NATURE is to kill,maim,and destroy...the even more undaunting and horrifying part of this is that Nature is in fact not pure and serene becuase man is part of it and its an endless battle between the two. Jim in my mind was like a angel who was cast down from heaven..he always seemed at peace with himself and with the horror surrounding he knew that there was mroe to life than the life that he knew... I would have liked to have seen more footage of Bell after he finds out the his true love..the thing that is keeping him alive..has spurned him and ripped his heart up to pieces.. because in relaity a broken heart and soul hurt ten times worse than a ripped apart body and flesh.. go see this film..sit back and just let the moodd and tranquilty mixed with chaos sweep over you.... krycek out and harry told u so.... glad u finially liked a movie i dug

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 8:09 p.m. CST

    the thin red line

    by Biggie

    Well i'm interested in the film purely because i think it has the POTENTIAL to be better than saving private ryan. but the thing about private ryan is that although i found it intense, i did not share the reactions of many who said they walked out of the theater stunned or whatever. i mean, there were some people who said they through up because of the carnage. frankly i know many other movies although not realistic are much more gruesome. but anyways, judging from word so far, this has to be a pretty provocative movie cause it's definitely provoking a lot of thought and conversation on this site. i can't pass judgment on anything yet cause i haven't seen it but the narration thing, is that kinda like apocalypse now? cause just from this movie looks like it resembles that somewhat. well i'm psyched, tomorrow school's gonna have to be a second priority....

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 8:14 p.m. CST



    There are images in this film that i will never be able to forget. I walked of the theatre somepeople had the same look on ther e face that i had the look saying i just witnessed a film that will go down in history a original war movie the look of i lovedf every frame but i dont know if i will ever watch it again. I heard others saying what was that i just didnt get i imagine that is what it must of been like after people first saw 2001 some people got it others didnt. To Terrance Malick I say welcome back please make the Movie Goer now and please make it before another 20 years go by.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 8:18 p.m. CST

    Malick's Vision

    by Maul99

    I haven't seen the film yet, but Harry's review tells me exactly what I expect to see from Malick. First, the guy could have made about 50 different films out of the 1 million feet of film he shot. I want to see the footage that was cut. Speaking of the footage (based on what I've seen from the trailer), if John Toll does not win it will truly be a disgrace. The guy is amazing. I know what to expect now so I will force myself not to be disappointed when I see the film. Thanks Harry!

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 8:48 p.m. CST

    "I Want You To ATTACK!!! Attack NOW!!"

    by bswise

    I've seen it twice now, and I'll see it at least two or three more times before its present release ends, own the DVD, and attend any and all revival screenings. I heartily recommend to those who loved it: see it again. The characters will stand out more, like vivid memories, or dream-visits from forgotten, fallen friends. I love that Malick created the entire voice-over narration in the editing process; he's an artist and a great poet. And yes, I also saw Saving Private Ryan again, now in limited re-release in The City, and I'm sorry to tell you, that flick's as ham-fisted as a head-cheese sandwich.... God Bless Terrance Malick; he'll probably never make another film as long as he lives.

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 9:34 p.m. CST

    thin red line & SW trailer

    by bruce le

    I agree absolutely that this movie is not for fact,exiting the theater i could see that about half of the audience had a "what the fuck was that?" expression on their faces. For me at least I know that it will require a second viewing to fully appreciate:I could not point out who was who at some points and i had trouble hearing some of the dialogue(must be old age...).I didn't find it too long,in fact i wished it would never end.The moment that i started to like it was when they attacked the village and I suddenly jumped on my seat and understood the movie.I liked the confusion created by that scene where we don't know who is shooting who. about the Star Wars trailer:how many are as disappointed as i am not havin seen it yet?I mean I tried everything:I saw bug's life, price of egypt,faculty... and then i thought since TRN was a Fox movie they would at least show the freakin trailer,but no,they showed Midsummer's night dream instead.No hard feelings,eh?

  • Jan. 14, 1999, 12:16 a.m. CST


    by directDre

    I must say I'm troubled. I went to see TRL on Monday. There was a the first two hours in the movie where i thought "This could very well be one of the finest films I have ever seen" The only thing holding it back at the time were the narrations which i at times felt were silly NOT IN TEXT...but in HOW they were spoken. I think Malick would have faired better with a more every-day speak. The actual dialogue was already poetic...but to have the narration spoken as such i felt was simply harping. Nonetheless, i thought the film was astounding insofar. But then the last hour dragged it seems. Nolte and Cusack- my favorites of the film just dissapear. I think Malick just fell in love with IMAGES. People were leaving the theatre in the last hour as if the air conditioners had farted. It upsetted me on how rude the audience was...and it was THEN that the movie started to bore me. But i cant imagine how a movie went from "one of the best...ever" to "when will this end?" Perhaps i was distracted by the annoying chatters in back me who laughed throughout the film...and then the getter-uppers if moses were outside the theatre. So...i will go see the film again. And I'll let you know what a second viewing brings, harry.

  • Jan. 14, 1999, 8:43 a.m. CST

    Poor James Jones

    by Data21

    Well, I must say that this is not a good film. Now don't get me wrong. I am not upset with the running time. I love epic films. To me, movies should be longer, espescially when I'm paying over $5 to see it. No, the running time was not the problem. The problem was with Malick's editing. I know how much trouble this film went through with cutting the running time. Well, the last-second editing shows with what "characters" we are left with. In the novel, Jones gave us true characters, full blooded, and thoughtful. Here, we are given pieces of characters, something that is not good in a "character driven" film. Sure, the nature photography was well done, but what was it doing in a war film? By showing how war disturbs nature is in exact contridiction with the essence of war, and Jones' book. Bad move Terry.

  • Jan. 14, 1999, 8:49 a.m. CST

    Thin Red Line

    by wittgenstein

    Since when was the point of ALL movies being realistic or telling a story? What does realism mean anyway when violent images are indistinguishable from the real thing?(Tell me; how is STARSHIP TROOPERS any less disturbing than RYAN? just because it's a sci-fi?) People who complain LINE doesn't tell a straight story are just arbitrarily wanting to pick on it; Does 2001 tell a straight story? What about movies of Scorsese, Coppola, Altman, etc., etc.? People who hate LINE not so much don't "get" the movie as much as are just ANGRY; why? Just because it is not conventional or entertaining in a "blockbuster" way. As if all movies have to be just ENTERTAINING in a CONVENTIONAL way. People who don't like LINE because it is a "half-assed" war movie are just ridiculous; you didn't like a movie, don't attack it like your enemy.

  • Jan. 14, 1999, 9:53 a.m. CST

    Nothing is complete horse shit.

    by Laurie

    I am completely digusted at the remark that this film was horse shit. Just because the film worked on a level that you were unable to grasp does not mean that it lacked all merit. Hell, even Bio-Dome had some pretty cool color codes (not that I would dare to compare the two films; just searching for a really bad movie). To say that a film with frightenly beautiful cinematography was shit reveals a new low in idiocy. Movies are more than simple stories for those with nothing better to do than spend three hours in the dark.

  • Jan. 14, 1999, 10:12 a.m. CST

    SPR + TRL Together

    by Ocean11

    I think "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Thin Red Line" make excellent companion pieces for somebody trying to understand what war is about. One the one hand, you've got SPR's visceral, gut-wrenching, overwhelmingly violent depiction of battle. You have fleshed-out characters and a linear plot ("Let's go save the guy"). You feel as though you have travelled with the company in the film and you are affected when there is a tragedy and and a triumph. But let's be honest: this is Speilberg's story. He is pushing your buttons in his singularly capable way (almost like he's saying "be shocked by war here...Be saddened by it during this scene...This is the part where you can laugh a little before it starts to get really bad.") OK. Malick's film, on the other hand, is almost the opposite of all that. At times it seems almost completely subjective--no narrative, no point-of-view, no center. Just a series of impressions, images, sounds. This is the internal side of war. This is a film that you have to work hard with. It's power, even its meaning, resides in the intersection of the viewers own experience and its depiction of the characters' experience. And that can be frustrating, difficult, even maddening. Sometimes you just want to watch a movie, you know? But in the end, this is the kind of film that lingers. When I think back on 1998 WWII movies, I won't be thinking about the aged Priate Ryan asking his wife if he was a good man, as John Williams emotive strings swell. I'll be thinking of a soldier's helmet in the surf, a flower growing out of it, as Zimmer's subtle score fades out.

  • Jan. 14, 1999, 10:36 a.m. CST

    No character development???


    This is my second response to the column. And no, I still haven't seen it yet (doesn't come out 'till tomorrow). I have never seen any of Terence Malick's previous films; although, most of you people seem to like his work, and I respect that. When you're used to seeing someone's work, and it's good, you tend to think that whatever they do will be good. This is unfortunate. Let's take Steven Spielberg for example. Most of his films were excellent, up until "Lost World", which didn't sit too well with me. There's only so much that dinosaurs can do, so it gets boring to watch after a while. This is not necessarily Spielberg's fault though. Everyone who didn't seem to like TRL complained that there was no character development, which is essential in making a film work, no matter how good it looks. The real filmmaking happens in the editing room. I don't care how many great shots you have. If they're not edited in a dramatic fashion, and are not effective in telling a story, it simply doesn't work. YOU MUST HAVE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! Let me say it again for all you non film school people. YOU MUST HAVE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. This is a rule. A rule that every filmmaker follows (until now it seems). You can have the prettiest damn movie anyone has ever seen, and the best actors in the world, but it'll all get boring if you can't identify with any of them. Movies are supposed to be made for everyone, not just those who have a deep thought process about movies or a love for filmmaking. Another thing I hear about this film, is that no one is around long enough in the movie for anyone to care about them. So what's the point of making a movie (which like a book or novel, has character development)if no one is going to care who lives or dies or whatever. This seems to be more of an "art" film, and most art films have some sort of character development. Now take the Star Wars trilogy. It has an incredible look and great locations, but it all appeals to us because there's a great and involving story to be told. Think of Star Wars without the plot or characters, think of it without the family ties. Pretty dull huh? Anyway, my thoughts could be way off, because I haven't seen it yet, so don't take any of this too seriously

  • Jan. 14, 1999, 12:25 p.m. CST

    Apples, Oranges, Ryan and Line

    by calgodot

    I'm no fan of this web site. I've said a pile of bad things about Harry, most of them exaggerations. But if he has accomplished anything with this thing, it's an eternal documentation of how terribly obtuse and woefully mediocre the tastes of most people are. In truth, I'm surprised that this many of you liked "The Thin Red Line," but not at all surprised by the fact that most of you seem unable to comment on this film without reference to Spielburg's "Saving Private Ryan." Aside from the fact that they are both films about WWII, why compare them? You do not compare SPR with "Godzilla" or your beloved "Star Wars." Are you memories so short that you don't remember a few other WWII films, like "A Midnight Clear?" Taking a look at my 1997 Videohound guide (I need a new one), I see what looks to be hundreds of listings in the subject index under "World War II" (pages 1109-1110 if you have this edition). Is anyone interested in comparing TRL to any of these? It would seem not. Personally, I hate comparison; I think comparing Malick to Spielburg is like comparing DaVinci to VanGogh. Neither of those two is a bad painter, and neither Malick nor Spielburg are bad directors. Comparing their films is like comparing DaVinci's paintings to VanGogh's -- is Vincent's "Self-Portrait" any less of a painting than "La Giaconda" (Mona Lisa), because VanGogh chooses the be impressionistic as opposed to more of a realist? Too many of us are weaned on TV these days. TV presents safe creations, cut to conform to a particular time frame, edited to progress the story in a particular manner. While they are somewhat better than TV, most contemporary filmmakers make films the same way: for a mass audience. It seems that few directors these days have any desire to present an artistic vision; outside of the "indies," I would say that almost no directors are interested in this (which is why the indies are indy). Why do you love SPR so much, those of you who do? I'd guess that you were so blown away by the assault on Omaha Beach that you failed to notice how miserably trite the remainder of the film was. Spielburg set his bar to the top notch, then walked right under it. I know that my first reactions to SPR were much better than my later viewings: the D-Day scene is some of the best filmmaking ever done, but the next 2 hours just don't match up. If yo think they do, you've got a lot to learn. Those of you who really hated this movie, I suggest you just stop even going to see anything that does not have the "Hollywood imprimatur" on it. Stick to the blockbusters, kids: you don't have the attention span or brains to handle anything more. Those of you who are torn, who like the film but have some problems: Go see it again. Go see it alone. Don't take any of your gum-chewing cronies to see it -- they only want to see George Clooney kick some ass, or Woody Harrelson make them laugh. Go see the film during the day, in the middle of the week. Avoid the mall theaters: they get the worst, most insensitive crowds. Try to see it in as private a place as you can muster. Heck, take the bus across town if you have to. This is the first film in a long long time that is worthy of the effort for repeat viewings. I imagine that every time you see this film, it will change on you. Learn to love it. And for those of you who love it already: we're a small group, my brothers and sisters. We are alone at the bottom of the hill.

  • Jan. 15, 1999, 8:42 a.m. CST

    "Thin Red Line" is one of 98's best films

    by Faust

    Harry, Harry, Harry, thank you for your glowing review of this misunderstood masterpiece of a film - it was your best review since "A Simple Plan." Audiences have no way of appreciating a great film when it comes along. The audience I saw "A Simple Plan" with groaned and yawned throughout the whole film, and that has full-blown characters! With "The Thin Red Line," the audience did the same, but what can you expect with a slow-moving,operatic piece like Terrence Malick's. He's still making films as if he was stuck in the 1970's, and that is a good thing. Those of you who have attacked the film for being just about nature and nothing else miss the point entirely. The film is nature. It is about men of war who fight and kill, and rape nature and its processes while doing it. And who says soldiers don't think of anything else but the enemy? Who says they never look at trees, the sunlight, parrots, bats, etc? In reality, maybe soldiers didn't but it doesn't mean that the thoughts didn't cross their minds. This film celebrates life, not war. It is as life-affirming and thoughtful as any film I've seen in the last couple of years.

  • Jan. 15, 1999, 10:38 a.m. CST

    Philosophical Nonsense - Thin Red Bore

    by Surreal

    I'm tired of the lame excuses being used to justify this piece of shit film. To say that "if you don't like it, you just don't 'get it'" is the same thing as saying "Well if you didn't like {insert film name here), you just didn't get it'". Give me a break. This film blew. I don't give a rat's ass WHO the damn director is. Boring pretentious, philosophical nonsense. "what's keeping us from reaching out? touchin' the glory?" what utter nonsense. These stupid voice overs just killed the film. Sure the cinematography was nice. But there was NO story line, NO charcater development, NO plot. This film could have been elevated to "Decent" status simply by eliminating all the speaking parts. No more excuses for this pieces of crap. It sucks.

  • Jan. 15, 1999, 12:49 p.m. CST


    by Santouche

    I just saw the first hour's worth of The Thin Red Line on my lunch break. I must say, I'm lucky I checked my watch. I only meant to watch an hour, but I will see it again soon. Very soon. This movie is absolutely hypnotizing, and exactly what I expected from a genius like Terrence Malick. I disagree that the narration sounds hokey or pretentious or wrong or any of the other negative comments on this message board. Those naysayers need desperately to escape from their tiny little minds. On the other hand, it just goes to show there's no accounting for taste. Not to sound pompous, but to call this film a piece of shit is totally unfounded and asinine.

  • Jan. 15, 1999, 3:19 p.m. CST

    For War Consideration....

    by bswise

    WARNING:[One long-ass post comparing TRL&SPR] --- SAN FRANCISCO, January 15, 1999 - Stephen Spielberg's SAVING PRIVATE RYAN seems the stuff of greatness: it elevates cinematic realism to new heights, is a catalyst for passionate discourse on World War II, emboldens new respect for our veterans, and gives Spielberg an early lock on all things Oscar. Conversely, Terrance Malick's THE THIN RED LINE garners equal parts praise, equal parts derision, and is called the product of an expatriate flower-child who's clearly lost his mind. Four days after seeing Malick's film, I am haunted, not by horrible images of war, but something far deeper and beguiling. Seeking truth, I see "Ryan" again, feeling diplomatic and ready to accept each film as two sides of the same coin - SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is the Id, flesh, machination, mission, answer and nostalgic history, to THE THIN RED LINE's conscience, spirit, garden, journey, question, and utopian vision. >>> Right out the gate, Spielberg is on to something big when he stages the battle of Omaha Beach. Consider that he arrives on location with only five pages of script for the entire invasion of Normandy, then gets busy in his sandbox, re-shooting and fine-tuning the gore until an immaculate vision of carnage is rendered - mostly thanks to Janusz Kaminski stripped lenses and newsreel cinematography. Reading the U.S. Army's technocratic account of D-Day [find it at], one is spirited to learn there is a real-life rifle company that lands at Dog Green amidst slaughter and confusion, blows a gap in a mine-field, fights its way to the top of a bluff, and cleans out a machine-gun nest. This incursion actually takes several grueling hours, not twenty minutes - that this should be surprising is testament to the power of Spielberg's false realism. >>> That Spielberg didn't just tell the whole story of D-Day is a bit of a shame. I suppose he didn't want to remake THE LONGEST DAY (1962), with its ham-and-cheese heroics. I kind of wish he had. Instead, he opts for something more sentimental and personal in scope, but sadly, his vision suffers for it. The very moment Tom Hanks' "Captain Miller" looks back at a beach littered with corpses (body parts curiously absent) the film looses its well-crafted, objectivity. That the eviscerating horrors of the battle still weigh on the mind is no excuse for the parade of stock characters, inappropriate comic relief, and desperate pastiche that follow. Though still impressed, I grow numb at the second viewing of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, feeling less and less for its Hollywood soldiers. >>>> Hollywood studios crib off each other, no big surprise, though it shall be vigorously denied. Since its inception, Dreamworks' primary strategy has been to borrow a concept in pre-production, expand the market parameters for that idea keeping a keen eye on cross-gender and cross-generation-gap demographics, then rush their product into release before the "original." No more glaring example can be found than in the case of ANTZ vs. A BUG'S LIFE. This project got the green light while Dreamworks co-founder, Jeffrey Katzenberg, was still a big cheese at Disney! Of course, no one's really complaining if Dreamworks bests HOME ALONE 3 with MOUSE HUNT, takes on 007 with PEACEKEEPER, or gives ARMAGEDDON a DEEP IMPACT. Regardless, when Robert Rodat, Frank Darabont, Spielberg, Hanks, and who knows how many other writers, sat down to hammer out the plot for "Ryan," they were anticipating THE THIN RED LINE, if not well acquainted with Malick's script - it had only been in pre-production for eight years. >>>> SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is, of course, no rip-off of THE THIN RED LINE, more so, an inversion. "Red Line's" single, gripping battle scene is bordered by metaphysical yearning, while "Ryan" bookends its uneasy spirituality with two scenes of sensational combat. "Red Line" features the hypnotic and ferocious presence of a green jungle, where "Ryan's" palate is leached of all color, save mud, gun-metal and brick. "Red Line" poses unanswerable queries into the nature of human existence, while "Ryan" asks the rhetorical question, "am I a good man?" >>>> All attempts at anticipating Malick's opus would be denied, for up to the second of his film's release, he still worked on it. Here is a man who will never play by Hollywood's rules. Consider that Malick spends twenty years in hiding, is begged out of retirement by a pair of iconoclastic producers (Robert Michael Geisler and John Roberdeau), spends many more years adapting James Jones' novel in secrecy, fires his producers, arrives on location in the wildernesses of Australia and the Solomon Islands with a small army, ditches his script, shoots 1,000,000 feet of 70mm film over a six-month period - most exclusively in evening and early morning light - cuts the film at eight hours, and lastly, writes a haunting, poetic narration to bind the final, three-hour cut. >>>> Those not hypnotized by Malick's vision are finding this film infuriating, though. A common complaint is that the film lacks a central hero to rally behind; but such is the film's belief that there exists a collective unconscious shared by all, and all men are somehow the same. The physical similarities between Privates "Witt" (Jim Cazeviel) and "Bell" (Ben Chaplin) emphasize this point. Both men carry with them memories of a great love, be it sensual wife, or primal paradise; both pass through war never to return to this love. In SAVING PRIVATE RYAN you hear about a soldier's mental island, where one must go in battle to remain sane; but in THE THIN RED LINE, you experience this, and you mourn its passing. >>>> In the end, THE THIN RED LINE is about World War II as much as SAVING PRIVATE RYAN . SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is about Death, the dark, senseless way one is mutilated through war. THE THIN RED LINE is about Life, light, and its fragile presence in all living things. >>>> In conclusion, I must address which film and which director will carry home more Oscars? The Academy faced a similar conundrum in 1978 when considering COMING HOME vs. THE DEER HUNTER for Best Picture. (This was the same year Malick made Days of Heaven, then disappeared). The war in Vietnam, long a taboo subject, was then recognized in mainstream cinema but, who had the supreme vision, Hal Ashby or Michael Cimino? The question is superfluous for neither film is about the war so much as the disintegration of the American psyche. Ultimately, The Academy chose THE DEER HUNTER with its deeply layered character studies over the cloying, P.C. sentimentality of COMING HOME. I am hoping that today's voters are of a similar sensibility. Therefore, I most humbly suggest to the esteemed members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for your consideration, for Best Picture

  • Jan. 15, 1999, 6:40 p.m. CST

    This Movie Was NOT Good.

    by Stavros

    TTRL was not a good movie. It wasn't a god awful piece of sh*t like, oh, Godzilla, but it had its many flaws. But first, what was good about it? Well it looked nice. It sounded nice. The music didn't suck. Problems? The one everyone was brought up...the lack of an involving plot. Frankly, this movie bored me to death with its minimal plot and uninteresting metaphysical type narrations. Some people may like having no plot to keep track of, but I kinda think a plot is what drives the movie. Not 30 shots of jungle wildlife. That leads to my second point, the editing left much to be desired. Sure many scenes, the battle scenes in particular were edited great, but any other type of transition was handled badly. Seeing the sun through the trees, or a shot of the grass every time transition is needed is not the way to go. .... I think I have complained long enough... but in closing I would just like to say this to those of you that enjoyed this real piece of work; It's great you can enjoy this movie for its prettiness and "amazing" philosophical ideas. I, on the other hand, would like a smart, intelligent movie, that IS ALSO entertaining and involving.

  • Jan. 15, 1999, 9:08 p.m. CST

    No plot or character development?

    by grandbean

    I absolutely cannot believe some of the comments I am hearing. PLOT? Hello!!? The whole movie involved take that island, which they accomplished. No more plot than SPR (finding private ryan). Character development?! You knew their thoughts, what they were seeing and listening to... far more than most movies and especially SPR. As for the narration and the scenes with the wife, how did those hamper the film? I'm sorry, I can't see how knowing (and actually seeing) what is going through a person's mind is bad... and then you complain of lack of character development? BAH! I think some of you just don't have the depth to get this movie. It's not about the natives and parrots or cinematography, it's about a whole lot more than that. It's about life. I plan to see this movie many times in the theater. Broaden your horizons and open your mind and take another look at it as well. Heck, to fully digest it would take more than on viewing. Maybe it hit me because of my life experiences, but I felt every chord of this movie.

  • Jan. 15, 1999, 10:03 p.m. CST

    by T-Bone

  • Jan. 15, 1999, 10:17 p.m. CST


    by T-Bone

    Just saw TRL. I'm very dissapointed. I really wanted to like this movie, and so did everyone else. That's part of the problem. No one wants to badmouth Malick and have him hideout for another 20 years. Take away the brilliant cinematography (John Toll) and you're left with 3 hours of psychobable. SPR stayed with me for days. I eventually saw it a second time, and remained blown away by it. It's pretty close to perfection, and it should win a couple of Oscars. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Malick. Reasons being: 1)No performances. what's up with having big name (& talented) actors, but giving them 5 minutes and boom, they're gone. The actors we are left with are decent at best. I wanted the red-head and the wide-eyed kid to die so I wouldn't have to watch them try to act. With SPR, you could nominate the whole cast. 2)No script. It's even reported that Malick abandoned the script. Bad idea. This film had nothing holding it together. I went to see it with friends in the television business, and we all felt the editiing was just thrown together. 3)Nothing new. I've heard the insane, rambling, inner-thoughts narration in war movies before used much better for effect (Apocalypse Now and Platoon). Also, Platoon uses the shot of light coming through the jungle ONE TIME NOT FIVE MILLION TIMES. WE GET THE POINT. IT'S A BEATIFUL SHOT OF A JUNGLE THAT GOT BLOWN AWAY. So, if it has no story, and it has no performances, what is left? Only what you take with you. Some people are embracing this movie, and that's great. But, don't feel compelled to like it just because it seems like the highminded thing to do. SPR and TTRL are two totally different films, which is why you get such polarizing comments from people. You either love it or hate it.

  • Jan. 15, 1999, 11:29 p.m. CST

    reasonable commentary

    by coach12

    I'm amazed at the passion with which the two sides approach this film. Well, actually I'm not. Its been a week since I've viewed this film so I've had time to digest. My initial reaction was one of immediate unconditional praise, and I was left to regard the rest of the crowd as philistines, unable to appreciate the return of one of Hollywood's true poets. However, now my opinion lies somewhere in between. I must say that I consider anyone who absolutely hated this film as narrow minded, at the least. Yes, this film lacked the central character, the dramatic tension, and the static narration one expects from Hollywood. However, if Malick had employed these traditional film mores, then he would have cost the film thematically. A film about synthesis and conflict must be interwoven, like the tree seen repeatedly in the film. To restrict its narrative by holding it to one point of view or one storyline would detract from this line of thought. That being said, if it says anything, there is a difference between poetic aand meandering, a fine line I am currently walking. This is a film that breaks down towards the end. Much of what happens after the taking of the Japanese encampment is confusing, both in terms of plot, and in relation to the themes of the film. The changing commanders (George Clooney?) and the last fifteen minutes as a whole seem hastily put together. The film would have been better served by either ending with the dead Japanese soldiers narration (one of the most amazing pieces of film this or any other year) or by making the film longer so these episodic areas of the end of the film had more cohrerence. In the end all I want to say is this film may be a masterpiece, but a flawed one. But perhaps flawed masterpieces are the best kind. After all, one man's flaw is another man's genius.

  • Jan. 16, 1999, 9:23 a.m. CST

    ash plisken

    by mofo

    The Japanese were saying, "don't move, we don't want to kill you." I think we don't get subtitles because we're supposed to be just as confused as the soldier. I thought Thin Red Line was amazing. Not on the same level as Private Ryan, but I don't think Malick was trying to re-create the horrors of war. I think he was saying that it was in our nature, just like every other animal. This film belongs in a category with something like 2001 - which was a religious film disguised as a sci-fi flick.

  • Jan. 16, 1999, 9:26 a.m. CST

    ash plisken

    by mofo

    The Japanese were saying, "don't move, we don't want to kill you." I think we don't get subtitles because we're supposed to be just as confused as the soldier. I thought Thin Red Line was amazing. Not on the same level as Private Ryan, but I don't think Malick was trying to re-create the horrors of war. I think he was saying that it was in our nature, just like every other animal. This film belongs in a category with something like 2001 - which was a religious film disguised as a sci-fi flick.

  • Jan. 16, 1999, 10:47 a.m. CST

    I'm not quite sure..

    by MovieJeanie

    I sat through it last night. And, I was quite tired so I should have maybe waited till I wasn't so tired but... I don't know what I think. The acting was beautiful. The scenes and battle actions were wonderful and exquisite. But the movie itself.. It had no basic plot. It was all narration in a war. There was no plot within the war. It reminded me of something on the History Channel. For those who are not into the artistic side of film (and I consider this a FILM not a MOVIE.. there's a BIG difference).. this was not for basic entertainment purposes. This was made more artistic... At least in MY opinion. It was enjoyable to a point, but why does every war movie have to be so damn long?!? Private Ryan was the same way! For a movie as long as this, you need a plot to keep people involved unless you're a film student or a history major. That's why Private Ryan was such a success. I, personally, thought it was exquisite.. but from an artistic point of view only. As for the general entertainment value.. I found it quite boring until the fighting and monologues from Nolte, Clooney and Travolta began.

  • Jan. 16, 1999, 3:31 p.m. CST

    Thin Red Lame

    by sbowden

    (1) I've actually seen the movie. (2) There is a limit to how realistic a war movie can be. The more the movie puts you in the private's shoes, the less you truly understand, and the more boring the movie becomes. Thin Red Line seems very realistic, but also pretty boring. (3) Thin Red Line is beautiful, but that's about it. As the movie progressed I begant to predict the next sequence: first a combat shot, then a close up of a contorting face, then a pan up to a lemur, or whatever, then a fakey midwestern accent asking us why war sucks, or whatever. I think a previous poster was right on when he said that Pvt. Ryan conveyed the terror and questions of war in a few seconds with a close up on Tom Hanks during the invasion. This material is way too thin for 3 hours. Anyway, you can turn back on your "what I thought about Thin Red Line" button.

  • Jan. 16, 1999, 4:28 p.m. CST

    A Crushing Disappointment

    by Bundren

    First off, let me say that I am a huge fan of Malick's earlier films "Badlands" and "Days of Heaven". I went into "The Thin Red Line" with high expectations, not for a fast paced, plot-driven film or lots of exciting war sequences, but to see a great artist at work. Unfortunately, this was not to be. Malick may have a great film hiding in the miles of film that he shot, but this cut of the film is not it. To those who say that this film IS character based, I defy anyone to tell me what's complex about any of them. Ben Chaplin? He's scared misses his wife, and later on she sends him a Dear John letter. That's IT. We don't even have any sense of his relationship with his wife, except for the fact that it's "deep" because flashbacks are filmed in slow-motion with gauzy lighting while they make-out. (Oh yeah. I forgot about his voiceovers where he says stuff like "I was a prisoner, but you set me free." I've heard deeper exclamations of love in a Backstreet Boys song). The main guy, Witt? He likes nature a lot, but can still be handy in a firefight, and walks around moon-faced most of the time in the midst of this wartime setting that's supposed to be horrifying. (Captain? I'll have what he's having). And these are the MAIN characters!! Meanwhile, other solidiers played by the excellent John C. Reilly and Adrien Brody are reduced to saying all of ten words in the whole movie. It was like the parts were written for Silent Bob or something. Ooops, I forgot Reilly's little soliloquy about how surviving war is "just luck" and how he doesn't feel anything any more. Wow. How deep. All told, I'm most disappointed in this film because it didn't earn any emotional reactions from me. It was telling me to be moved, to be shaken, to be changed by seeing it, but it didn't do anything to earn such reactions. A perfect example of this is when Elias Koteas is transferred, and he tells his soldiers "You were like sons to me." Really? Well, I guess I'll have to take his word for it, because there's not one scene of him having any such interaction with his men that proves this to me. Or, in what's apparently supposed to be a key statement about the conflict between Sean Penn's character and Witt, Witt tells him, "Sometimes I can talk to you about anything, and other times you're like a stone" or something like that. Again, really? That's funny, because I've seen nothing in the story that has shown me this yet. The characters in this film aren't individuals, but symbols, meant to represent either the faceless soldier or a certain ideology about war. Nothing more, nothing less. And in the end, the only message this film gives is: War is bad. People get killed during it. And lots of pretty things in nature get destroyed. So apparently we shouldn't have any more wars. I'm sorry, but I for one was hoping to experience something a little more complex than this.

  • Jan. 16, 1999, 10:32 p.m. CST

    Big problem with TRL's idea of nature...

    by Bundren

    Like Owen Gleiberman said in his review, I think that it's hard to accept Malick's central idea of this innocent, Edenic paradise and the "natural" order of things being defiled by man's tendency towards war. True, modern warfare is incredibly destructive, but to try and present "nature" as a realm of peacefulness and non-violence? Please. The only character who contradicts this view is Nick Nolte's (who is hardly presented as sympathetic)and, even worse, no attempt is even made to address his argument.

  • Jan. 17, 1999, 1:20 a.m. CST

    The Fat White Guy

    by Ogre

    Sitting through The Thin Red Line, I kept thinking, "what's the point?" Not in respect to the deaths of young men, but in respect to the empty platitudes these men were sending out. From the beginning when Private Witt is living amongst the island people in peace and harmony, you know what the theme of the film will be, Eden will be burned and innocence will be lost. If this movie were a bumper sticker, it would be the one saying "war is bad for children and other living things" Terrence Malick has attempted to craft something beautiful, challenging, and poetic, but it's wrapped around sentiment so hollow that it collapses under the weight of it's own pretense. Cinematography: Even negative reviews of the film conceded on this issue; copping out with the "at least it's beautifully filmed" line...You know what I wasn't impressed with the cinematography. There wasn't one shot that I would imagine hung up on a wall anwhere outside of a motel 6. The obsession with nature drew away from the nature of obsession that Nick Nolte's character exhibited in what was the films only REAL exploration of humanity..Which I'll get to later. Lighting wise and color wise in regards to scenerey it was nothing I hadn't seen in Mighty Joe Young. Characters: One of the soldiers (I'm not sure which one..a problem with this film) states something to the effect of "Maybe we all just got one big soul and we have to share a piece" I think this movie had one big character and all the actors shared his lines. With the exception of Nick Nolte's and Elias Koteas' characters, you could have switched actors around and I wouldn't have noticed. Nolte's character is interesting while being extremely stereotypical. He's like the malformed love child of George Patton and Vince Lombardi..He wants to win this war, not for freedom but for glory...Jealous of being outranked by younger, more cultured officers (embodied in saturday matinee fashion in a laughable scene with John Travolta) he wants to make something of himself even if it means sacrificing his men. This is the film's closest thing we have to a real person. Nolte's foil comes in Koteas' Captian Starros a man obsessed with pleasing God (originally written as a Jew but changed to Greek by Malick) he considers the soldiers his children and refuses certain orders given by Nolte on the grounds that he will not sacrifice them. The rest of the characters are just there. There to write poetry in their heads, and there to die..Which is a shame because there are some very talented actors in this movie who have absolutely nothing to do, they just sort of wander around looking for the movie that they're supposed to be in. In addition, everyone in this movie is selfish. A selfishness that dishonors the goal and the sacrifice of the American soldier in World War II, which was nothing less than saving the world. Terrence Malick (Or how to become a cult hero): Hole up for twenty years, adapt an extremely self important novel in to never finished screenplay, hire every young white male actor, use footage of only half of those actors, give two thirds of that one half inconsequential cameos, or story arcs that go nowhere, set it against an exotic background in order to show us that fighting for freedom is not worth the damage it does to the habitat of certain parrots, shoot millions of feet of film, edit this film at random, and insert commercials for Calvin Clein's Eternity for men, refuse to give interviews adding to your mystique as a cross between Obi Wan and John Huston, and laugh your way all the way to the Golden Globes. This would work fine if the finished product didn't resemble a Juliard School field trip to a paint ball range. I can honestly say that Starship Troopers is a better portrayal of the impact of war on the human conditon than this movie, probably more realistic as well.

  • Jan. 17, 1999, 1:30 a.m. CST


    by Fork

    Not all films are meant to appeal to every person. Some believe that there are no rules when it comes to film. Many of the techniques that are commonly used in even the most mainstream of films were at one time considered unconventional. This changes in time because of filmakers that are willing to take chances. I respect any filmaker that is willing to try and challenge our perception of what film can be. I personally feel that this film was incomplete but I got something different from this film than I have recieved from any other war film and I think that is commendable.

  • Jan. 17, 1999, 2:26 a.m. CST

    The Thin Red Line Review:

    by Clockwork Taxi

    I loved this movie. It is one of the most beautiful and haunting films i've ever seen. It is easily the most brilliant film of the year. It is not for everyone, which is good, because this movie is too good for the common crowd. I like to think it is made for a certain type of person. If you do good deeds in your life, this should be one of your rewards. Not the best film of the year, but the film that will always be a true classic.

  • Jan. 17, 1999, 4:51 a.m. CST


    by cleo

    That had to be the longest, most boring, overrated movie I've seen in a long time (probably since Dune or Gandhi). While I sat totally transfixed and mesmerized during Saving Private Ryan, I couldn't help but fidget, squirm, yawn, look at my watch during this complete yawn fest, and I noticed that I wasn't the only one in the theatre doing so. The only redeeming features of this movie are its admittedly gorgeous cinematography and strong performances by Nick Nolte and Sean Penn (the other characters don't give performances - they just stare zombie like into space for hours on end). I can't believe that the ass who initially reviewed this movie on this website actually thought it to be a BETTER movie than SPR. It doesn't even come close. Well anyway, movies from here until May are just warm-ups for the...the big one!

  • Jan. 17, 1999, 10:39 a.m. CST

    too long?

    by death hilarious

    I personally didn't think that THE THIN RED LINE was too long. I felt that Malick's style of story telling lent itself to a long movie. I saw the movie yesterday and a few of the people I saw it with thought that many of the scenes were unnecessary. In my opinion however, all the scenes seemed fitting. Malick explores his themes visually and so needs those extra scenes to suggest an idea or explore one further. His visual exploration was so subtle and beautiful that it held me captivated for 3 hours. That being said, I didn't find the movie to be great. Malick expertly showed us the toll of war on men's minds. We see what men will think of to escape the madness around them as we hear the internal queries that arise because of it. We see the darkest acts of man juxtaposed with the peace and beauty of nature. And we see men search within themselves for their share of that peace and beauty. Though the movie takes us into these minds so well once there, we find only vague and elusive ideas. The movie is never powerful or focused enough to move one. At the end of the movie I felt as if Malick had screamed his heart out but failed to say anything at all. His message was whispered in fleeting images, but his movie was never powerful enough to make one lean closer and listen.

  • Jan. 17, 1999, 11:02 a.m. CST

    Apocalypse Yawn

    by Not Todd

    To paraphrase another critic, this movie shows what WWII would have been like had it been fought by bad poets. This wasn't worth the wait and may be the most overrated film of 1998. It meanders shamelessly and ends up trying to be APOCALYPSE NOW without Marlon Brando at the end.

  • Jan. 17, 1999, 11:06 a.m. CST

    Thin Red Line

    by SimonSezz

    Not having any previous exposure to Malick, I realized 15 minutes into the film that I was in for a 3 hour artflick. I'm no stranger to the "highbrow" film to which so many others have alluded, but TRL left me numb. Not because of the conflict between pastoral ideal (simplicity, simplicity, simplicity) and savage warfare (war is hell, it not only costs lives but souls, too), but because other than getting this one theme across the film accomplishes nothing. I felt nothing during the 3 hours except joy when the end credits began. Some may say think that shallow, but no matter how beautifully shot a film may be, if there is no emotional response within the viewer the film fails. Sadly, I didn't care about what happened to the actors --not characters--since other than the Big 3 (Nolte, Koteas, and Cusack) there weren't any. I wanted to care, but flashbacks and internal thoughts are not successful means to this goal. Sure, films can be philosophical and entertaining--hell, they SHOULD be so (CONTACT, DARK CITY, STARSHIP TROOPERs). Others have harped on this point, so I'll let their words stand. I can see I'm beginning to ramble (this *IS* AICN, after all), so just a few more random thoughts. As a film TRL is alright. As a war film it is weak. Sure, it looks nice but there's no substance. No core. No emotion. No resolution. I'm hoping James' novel will allow me to appreciate what TRL could have been. Oh, and to the person who wrote that Williams' score for SPR was self absorbed, please e-mail me at; I'm interested to hear why you think so, though I don't agree. 8-)

  • Jan. 17, 1999, 2:59 p.m. CST

    The Thin Red Line

    by Lil Bubba

    Everything you said about the movie was true, except I think I know why most people will hate it. The movie was exhausting, it took so much work and energy to interpret each scene and try to create cohesion. It didn't "wash over me" like art usually does. It was difficult to follow and you constantly second-guess yourself, wondering if you are "getting it".

  • Jan. 17, 1999, 6:56 p.m. CST

    The Thin Cliched Plot

    by Keaton1

    I just saw this movie yesterday afternoon, and can give it no better than a C. Problems? Here are the top ten: 1) Way too many pictures of overhead trees, birds, and waving grass; 2) Familiar main argument, i.e. nature good, people/war bad; 3) incoherent plot, things happen, and the things that happen next seem to somehow happen without anything shown as to how we got to that point. Best example was when that guy was shot by 40 Japanese at the end, and all of a sudden he's buried (sort of) in the sand (how did they elude the Japanese, who seemed just about to catch up to them, and for that matter, just why the heck were they in that creek to begin with?); 4) you don't really get to know the main characters. For instance, I can't remember any of their names, and it hardly seems to matter; 5) that Dear John voiceover was absolutely ridiculous (and that plot turn obvious and hokey); 6) almost every guy in this movie turns into an emotional puddle. I know war is horrid and all, but come on, it seems like they'd need a platoon of shrinks just to fight the next battle; 7) the narrative voiceovers get exceedingly tiresome 30 minutes into the film; 8) George Clooney spends about five seconds in the movie, and John Travolta twice that, yet they somehow rank higher in the credits than those more deserving; 9) the depiction of the Japanese seems unrealistic, based upon what we know of their culture and mindset at that time. They seem too willing to give up and surrender to the Americans; and 10) there is no perspective on what is happening. First, we're told they're going to try and take Guadalcanal, and all they end up doing is taking a hill. Overall, the movie basically appears to be just a day in the life of war in the World War II Pacific, but it doesn't break any new ground, instead hitting familiar themes we've heard time and again. The entire style is plodding, pretentious, and heavy-handed. Only some good action sequences and a couple dramatic moments save this flick from total crapdom.

  • Jan. 18, 1999, 7:53 p.m. CST


    by Frank Rizzo

    Right on, Gizmo!!! Boy, what a pure and utter FAILURE. Other than the most obvious problem--the extreme boredom of the movie--there was another problem that took me awhile to realize. The problem? The movie is clearly made by--and for--those who consider themselves intellectual elites. Keep that in mind and you will understand a great many things. First, the ridiculous poetry. What utter crap. A realistic dialog of the thoughts of a GI might have worked, but not this artsy-fartsy bilge. SECOND--the recurring "peaceful" images: Malick is basically saying, "OK, let's spell this out to the unwashed masses--war bad, nature good!" We don't need to have the peace and tranquility of "ordinary life" pointed out to us to compare the war too, because most everyone in the theater already HAS a relatively tame life. This crap made the whole damn movie look like an Obsession cologne or Infiniti car ad. No wonder the critics are fawning all over it. THIRD--I could have seen two-thirds of the movie by turning on the discovery channel. I should've walked out and done just that, only I'm too cheap. Basically, this movie was surprisingly like an MTV video--interesting images, pieced together haphazardly, with no real plot. Jook really cool looking stuff that makes no sense. And for those who blather on about the naysayers "not being smart/clever/emotional/mature/ caring/(insert your own psychobabble here) enough" are just PROVING my point that this movie is by the snobs for the snobs. Don't tell me I am a slack-jawed yokel (We can compare IQ tests anytime) because I don't "get it", I get it just fine and it stunk! In closing, here is how I summed it up to a friend. "Just as Rob Roy was to Braveheart, and as Wyatt Earp was to Tombstone, that is the way Thin Red Line is to Saving Private Ryan".....

  • Jan. 18, 1999, 8:17 p.m. CST

    The Thin Red Line

    by Nordling

    I had the day off today, so I went to see this film. This is not a routine actioner or war film, with a "once more unto the breach" mentality. Yes, this film can be slow, or what I prefer to call "deliberately paced." And those who hacked on SPR's cliched characters would probably have a field day with this one (the ambitions of Colonel Tall and the Dear Jack letter that Ben Chaplin received come to mind), but still, this is a powerfully moving film that will probably get the recognition it deserves in about 20 years, like Terrance Malick's other films. But I don't see it winning Best Picture. In my opinion, the scene with John Cusack and company storming the Japanese bunker qualifies with any battle scene in SPR (except the first one, of course). I can understand the bitching about the archetypal characters in both SPR and TRL, considering all the Vietnam films that have come since the heyday or war film, but to be honest, these characters are really not cliches for the time. Regular people went to war. There were schoolteachers, like Hanks's character, and there were lawyers, like Elias Koteas' character, and many others. Young boys died screaming for mother, or God, or morphine, just as these films showed. I see this winning a whole bunch of technical awards, especially cinematography, which was quite simply, the best I've seen in a few years. Maybe in 20 years we'll all catch up to this one and call it a classic. It certainly was interesting to watch, and the acting of Ben Chaplin, Sean Penn, and Nick Nolte especially stand out. But the way Woody Harrelson died is something Woody the bartender would do. "I blew my butt off!"

  • Jan. 18, 1999, 10:50 p.m. CST

    The Thin Red Line

    by Seraph

    I'm still trying to figure this movie out. It's been less than two hours since I got home from it and I am little further than I was when I watched the credits roll. Either way, love it or hate it, The Thin Red Line makes you think. Really think. Audiences don't like to have to use their brains when they see films, they want everything laid out for them so that they can sit back and relax for two hours. Malick's film defies all that, leaving no clear plot and no conventional character development but instead presents the audience with the soul searching a man must do when confronted with the madness of war. Then again, this is a film that is hardly conventional. As I said, I'm still trying to figure out the film through Malick's layers of artistry, and I'm still deciding whether or not I liked it. But I do know this: I will be going back to the theater to be puzzled all over again.

  • Jan. 19, 1999, 2:54 a.m. CST

    just saw TRL


    I just saw TRL and like everyone else there were people who left the theater and there were those that kept checking their wathches. For those people, Patch Adams ,Virus or any other un-original piece of crap was playing in the same cineplex for your pea-sized minds to absorb. TRL was a great film that i will see mny times over. I congratulate Malik for taking risks in this film that will cost at the box office but not in the minds of movie lovers. Why when we go to movies, many of us need everything explained to us by the characters. SPR was a great film,especially the first 30 minutes, but in reality it was a safe movie to make for Spielberg. Take the biggest star in Tom Hanks and find some experts to make every part of battle realistic and we will get 100 million dollars(ending up with 200 Million). TRL is the complete opposite in making the actual war and the environment it is taking place in the center of attention, not Tom Hanks or Matt Damon. This film is not for everybody and i will be surprised if it makes over 40 million but Out Of Sight dissapointed at the box office too and Along with TRL were the two best films of 1998.

  • Jan. 19, 1999, 9:52 a.m. CST

    The Thin Red Line

    by 6666

    Three days later, and images from this film continue to spin through my conciousness...Parts of me are enraptured at what I have seen...Parts of me are haunted by what I have seen...Parts of me are still trying to figure out exactly what it was that I saw! How many films out there even come close to having the potential for this kind of impact? Surely, it is far from perfect. It is a very beautiful, and at times terrifying film that can't, and perhaps should not be, fully understood one minute after leaving the theater. As a "MOVIE" it does not succeed on every level - but as a work of is superior! Let's face it - a work of art is something so personal and inventive and creative, that only the artist has the definitive vision. The viewer is left to put their own emotional stamp on it, either positive or negative - or somewhere inbetween. I see the film as more of an impressionist painting. There are swirls of images, colors and emotions that draw us in, repel us and confuse us. More in the same league with Van Gough than Speilberg. Sure, the narration was somewhat irritating and the structure of the story non-existant at times...but I have never seen anything like the prolonged battle sequence where the company attempts to take the enemy positions at the top of the hill. As these men fought for their lives I was terrified,but also enveloped in the waves of tall grass and streaks of sunlight racing across the hillside - repulsed and seduced at the same time! If you would rather catch your art at a museum than the cinema - skip this one...If you are the type of person who is open to honest and artistic visions in all forms - then you MUST see this film!

  • Jan. 19, 1999, 11:11 a.m. CST

    All the dead poets...

    by Clark Savage

    Now that I've seen "The Thin Red Line", I know why there have been so few good American poets since WWII - they were all killed on Guadalcanal!

  • Jan. 19, 1999, 1:18 p.m. CST

    there is hope in hollywood

    by biscuit

    i was hesitant to click on your review of the thin red line, as i've been stunned by the negative response to the film. i thought, if harry knowles didn't like this film, all hope is lost. your review was enlightening. i, too, loved the film completely. and after reading your review, i am much more at peace with the split opinions on it. still, i think it's sad that the masses had so much trouble understanding the genius of terry malick. i was so inspired by his brilliant assembly of images, music and poetry, to paint a picture of war like none other. in a film culture overloaded by star-driven marketing machines with predictable plotlines, i salute terry malick for having the balls to remind us what high art really is. i've found that if i prepare friends for the show by telling them to expect a poem rather than a traditional story, their enjoyment of the 3-hour experience greatly increases. i am the assistant to one of the actors in the film, and am more proud of his participation in this project than any other. thank you for writing the review that this film deserves. my respect for you and your appreciation for the truest art of filmmaking is now off the charts.

  • Jan. 19, 1999, 2:10 p.m. CST


    by The Duke

    I saw TLR this past weekend, and it's really a movie where you don't know quite what to think about it. I loved the cinematography and battle scenes, but the poetic narratives and cut scenes with the wife (who didn't figure out by the first half-hour that she was cheating on him?) succeeded in literally putting me to sleep for five minutes early in the film. Malick really needed to spend some more time in the editing room, since this COULD have been a good 2:15, 2:30 movie. My biggest complaint, though, is the philosophical way the soldier (can't remember his name) talks in the narratives. Instead of telling us the story like a real soldier would talk, he speaks like a philosophy major from Harvard. Just a bit unrealistic. What I did feel moved by was the way the Japanese were portrayed. Instead of making them seem like the most evil people in the world, as other movies have, Malick shows the human side of the Japanese soldiers. They didn't fight because they were monsters, they fought for the same reasons Americans fought: patriotism, duty, honor, and because they were forced. TRL does a much better job with this than Saving Private Ryan, but this is the only area where TRL tops SPR. It doesn't matter which movie wins Best Picture in March. In my mind, the best film of the past year was "The Prince of Egypt".

  • Jan. 19, 1999, 2:22 p.m. CST

    the masses strike back!

    by ganymede

    Yet another delusional soul thinks that by deriding the film's critics as ingnorant "masses" he elevates himself to the standard of intellectual and that only such a person can understand a film like TLR. Perhaps the reason that so many of the people who praised the film had to insult other's intelligence is that the film's plot, characters and even theme are so poorly developed that the only way to defend it is to resort to such insults. I have no problem with arty films. Most of my favorite directors, such as Kubrick, Lynch and the Coens, travel in artsy fair. But i do have a problem with a film as hollow as TLR. As others have stated, I will conceded that the film does look gorgeous. However, that is not enough to sustain a nearly 3 hour film. The battle sequence was noteworthy as were a couple of the minor performances (Nolte and Cusak). Unfortunatly, The characters who had the most screen time had nothing original to say. The sequences with the wife at home as well as its obvious conclusion were nothing but contrived. As for the obligatory SPR comparison, SPR actally had an emotional impact on me despite its sentimental bookends. I thought of it as I drifted off to sleep and many more times in the weeks following. The only thing I thought about follwing TLR was what potential was wasted. I could empathize with the characters in SPR and the plight of the average person thrown into such an demanding environment which is necessary for there to be any emotional resonance. While there may be some people who would not appreciate a film like this because they are weaned on the Godzillas of the world, there are others who are capable of understanding complex films and were hoping TLR would have been just that. Sadly, it was as empty as many of last summer's blockbusters.

  • Jan. 19, 1999, 3:40 p.m. CST

    Bad and Good

    by mrkrypto

    After seeing this film I can only agree with a friend who said "when it succeeds, it succeeds brilliantly, when it fails, it fails utterly". Yes, much of the cinematography was beautiful, and normally that might make excellent contrasts between the beauty of the forest and the horrors of war. Unfortunately, it only works if it is an unspoken underlying theme. The movie begins with a voice-over which essentially explains that the movie is about the way in which nature is in constant conflict with itself. For me, if the central point of a movie is presented in such a blatant way within the first few minutes of a movie, the rest becomes repetition. The film lacked subtlety in a big way. The voice-overs explaining to everyone exactly what is happening and what we are supposed to be feeling. I can't agree with Harry that they add to the humanness of the characters because the characters are so poorly developed. We know little about any of them and never get a chance to learn more. A good war movie works by showing the actions of people forced (or leaping willingly) into the most horrible of human endeavors. In this film the characters all seemed flat. The constant flashbacks to the wife got in the way. Once short flashback would have been enough to indicate the feelings of the character, the constant repition did nothing to add to it and took up time that would have been better used to explore other characters. Sean Penn's character in particular, or the Captain. Both played pivotal roles and yet we really knew little about them. The battle scenes were well done, making me feel like I was right in the middle, but that's not nearly enough to make a great war movie. I think of Tora Tora Tora and A Bridge To Far in which we see the battles, the characters and the overlying motivations behind all of them. The portrayal of the Colonel in particular irked me. He was presented as the guy passed over for promotion who wanted to impress the higher-ups whatever the cost. There were some hints that maybe he could consider his own fallibility but these were so confused and washed around that no clear picture of the man arose. I think about George C Scott in Patton. Yes, patton wanted to win for his ego, and he also pushed his men to the limits, but at the same time there was a theme that it is better to sacrifice lives now then to have the war go on and on and cause more losses by duration. Overall this movie continues a disturbing trend of making epic length films without epic qualities. There was nothing in the themes, the cinematography or the characters and (what little there was) plot to justify the length. I've seen plenty of 3 hour films that worked, this one didn't. Cut out an hour and cut out the voice overs and you might have something.

  • Jan. 19, 1999, 5:20 p.m. CST


    by CryptKeeper

    Never have a been more disapointed in a film. Sure, it had alot of pretty pictures. But I didn't see anything that isn't shown on the discovery channel fifteen times a day. The battle scenes were well done but the rest of the movie was waaaaay too abstract artsy for me to enjoy. Its kindof interesting that the kind of art i like can affect my opinion of a film...I never was a fan of abstract or surreal art, but i always did like realistic pieces. I think this is one of the reasons why I loved SPR and hated ATR... It was cool when they dropped grenades in those japanese hiding places though ahhahah...well anyways.. thats all I have to say for now.

  • Jan. 19, 1999, 6:11 p.m. CST

    The Three Longest Hours of My Life

    by Spaceman Spliff

    OH MY GOD. Usually Harry and I are in lockstep when it comes to the movies we like, but this time we've definitely parted ways. I had heard that Malick's technique was a little unorthodox, and I prepared myself for that, but what I didn't prepare myself for was three hours of cinematic hell. I guess in one sense he captured the spirit of war perfectly, for upon exiting the movie theater my one thought was "What a horrible waste." To be fair, the cinematography was beautiful. But it was executed poorly. You can't just pan away from a firefight, show a toucan for a few minutes, and then go back to the firefight. (I'm sorry, did I say "firefight"? I meant two actors with guns meaningfully staring at each other. Or at a fern. Or a tree.) Oh, here's a suggestion. What I think would have made the movie much more watchable was some more shots of trees. Because I didn't think there were enough. Okay, the first 15 minutes or so were actually pretty enjoyable. Two AWOL soldiers enjoying a tropical island. At this point there was still hope that the movie might go somehwere. Sure it was slow, but you don't need Omaha beach in order to keep my interest. So I reserved judgment. Then the movie just plodded along and I starting eating untold buckets of shit. Point by point: 1) The movie had no plot. Okay, there was about 30 minutes of plot. But it was a 3-hour movie. Do the math. 2) The movie had no direction and no focus. I can't tell you how many times I thought (prayed) that the movie would end. But it just kept right on going. And going. And going. When the end credits finally rolled I swear the entire audience (those who lasted until the end, that is) let out a collective sigh of relief. 3) I didn't care about a single character. Not even when Woody got his ass-ectomy. I just thought, "Dumb shit, you shouldna pulled the pin. But at least you get to leave." 4) That voice-over. After an hour or so I just stopped listening. It was the twist of the knife. The movie was bad enough without it, but that and the inane flashbacks to the wife pushed it over the edge into the ridiculous. 5) Actors, not soldiers. I saw this as an actor's wet dream. Plenty of pseudo-intellectual semi-coherent crap, but not too much reality. (Although I'm forced to wonder if the actors knew what the movie was going to look like when they were shooting it.) 6) Amateurish use of gore. By focusing on such scenes as the legless corpse near the beginning and dwelling on them for minutes at a time, they became wearying. And scenes like that should be shocking. (Malick could have learned much from Pvt. Ryan.) I have to say however, that I enjoyed the scene with the dogs. That was pretty cool. Inserted into another movie it would have been properly horrifying. Sure, I've seen crappy movies before, but this moved me to anger. When I left the theater I was angry at Malick for taking those three hours away from me, and I wanted to write him a letter telling him that he should have left well enough alone. Hollywood is a better place without him. But I didn't have his address so I wrote this. Bottom line: 1 part European art film, 1 part war epic. Both bad. Jax

  • Jan. 19, 1999, 6:45 p.m. CST


    by JJB

    For a guy as long out of the game and as crazy as Malick seems to be, I expected a hell of a lot worse. Yes the cinematography was good, as well as the battle sequences. But as I came out something odd ocurred to me. After 3 hrs. of droaning narration about "What makes a man do.." etc., guess who I felt that I understood most after the movie: the JAPANESE!!! It seems to me that their pain and hurt and suffering and dishonor was shown 10 times more effectively than any GI Joe!!! Look, it's not that I want to like the Japs and hate the GI's but I have no reason to give a damn about any GI!!! Anything put into the story to make us feel something for the characters(like the Dear John letter, as others have said) just seems artificial. The only guy you can identify with is Nick Nolte and he's the HEAVY for christ's sake!!! I guess my problem is that coming out of a movie like PRIVATE RYAN(not to make to much of an analogous because they are different movies) I felt something powerful. I felt that I had been given a real feeling of what my grandfathers went through and what they were faced with during WWII. All THE THIN RED LINE left me with was a headache and a sore ass.

  • Jan. 19, 1999, 8:42 p.m. CST

    To those who hated TRL.....

    by Bundren

    To those of you who hated The Thin Red Line but who haven't seen Malick's earlier work, don't let the crappiness of TRL stop you from seeing "Badlands" and "Days of Heaven". I just thought this was worth pointing out after reading how this was the first Malick movie for many posters here. I agree that TRL was terrible, but there's a reason why there was so much hype: back in the Seventies Malick made the above two films, both of which were wonderful, and also much more focused at around 90 minutes each. It's a sad thing that Malick has lost his touch (the cinematography alone in "Days of Heaven" makes the TRL look like camcorder footage in comparison) but at least we still have these films from when a once-great director was on top of his game.

  • Jan. 20, 1999, 1:25 a.m. CST

    I have missed you Terry!

    by Pussycat

    I am totally in awe of The Thin Red Line. It was an incredible experience! Unfortunately, I think alot of things will hurt this film 1)The prior release of Saving Private Ryan. They are nothing alike, but since they're WWII fliks we still get the comparisons. SPR was a success among moviegoers so now they're going to expect another one. This is no Spielberg, it's Malick! I do like SPR but Spielberg always hits you with that cheap sentimentality which, I know, is hard to resist- none of this in TLR- good! Sure the first half hour of SPR was incredible, but come on, that's the best part of the film- ok so I find Tom Hanks extremely irritaitng too. Let's just forget about SPR when talking about TRL. 2)The star system- the marquis at Tinsletown said in huge letters: starring Sean Penn, John Travolta, George Clooney- I laughed! I knew way beforehand how the "stars" were used. Penn is consistently in the film from start to finish but Travolta only a couple minutes and Clooney even less. This will further defy audience expectations, and may piss those off who expect to stare at John and George for 3hrs. I myself think it's an interesting use of the star system as most of the stars are cameos or supporting roles while relatively unknowns are the leads. These are the main reasons why many may not like this film plus it's Terrence Malick. This is totally a Malick film. His two previous films Badlands and Days of Heaven were among the best films of the 70s and were also not financially successful although critically praised. TLR has the same aesthetic qualties- attention to nature, beautiful cinematography, and emotion that comes out like poetry on the screen. It's just alot longer than his other films. Oh no! Not a long movie! Actually, my only regret was that is was not longer. I wanted to see more. I hear that Malick's first cut was 6hrs.- I wanna see that one! This film looked so beautiful yet was very effectively contrasted by the ugliness of war. Malick had me totally hypnotized from start to finish. By far one of the best films of the year, although obviously already under appreciated. Terry! Why have you been such a recluse! I have missed you!

  • Jan. 20, 1999, 1:32 a.m. CST

    I have missed you Terry!

    by Pussycat

    I am totally in awe of The Thin Red Line. It was an incredible experience! Unfortunately, I think alot of things will hurt this film 1)The prior release of Saving Private Ryan. They are nothing alike, but since they're WWII fliks we still get the comparisons. SPR was a success among moviegoers so now they're going to expect another one. This is no Spielberg, it's Malick! I do like SPR but Spielberg always hits you with that cheap sentimentality which, I know, is hard to resist- none of this in TLR- good! Sure the first half hour of SPR was incredible, but come on, that's the best part of the film- ok so I find Tom Hanks extremely irritaitng too. Let's just forget about SPR when talking about TRL. 2)The star system- the marquis at Tinsletown said in huge letters: starring Sean Penn, John Travolta, George Clooney- I laughed! I knew way beforehand how the "stars" were used. Penn is consistently in the film from start to finish but Travolta only a couple minutes and Clooney even less. This will further defy audience expectations, and may piss those off who expect to stare at John and George for 3hrs. I myself think it's an interesting use of the star system as most of the stars are cameos or supporting roles while relatively unknowns are the leads. These are the main reasons why many may not like this film plus it's Terrence Malick. This is totally a Malick film. His two previous films Badlands and Days of Heaven were among the best films of the 70s and were also not financially successful although critically praised. TLR has the same aesthetic qualties- attention to nature, beautiful cinematography, and emotion that comes out like poetry on the screen. It's just alot longer than his other films. Oh no! Not a long movie! Actually, my only regret was that is was not longer. I wanted to see more. I hear that Malick's first cut was 6hrs.- I wanna see that one! This film looked so beautiful yet was very effectively contrasted by the ugliness of war. Malick had me totally hypnotized from start to finish. By far one of the best films of the year, although obviously already under appreciated. Terry! Why have you been such a recluse! I have missed you!

  • Jan. 20, 1999, 1:37 a.m. CST

    I have missed you Terry!

    by Pussycat

    I am totally in awe of The Thin Red Line. It was an incredible experience! Unfortunately, I think alot of things will hurt this film 1)The prior release of Saving Private Ryan. They are nothing alike, but since they're WWII fliks we still get the comparisons. SPR was a success among moviegoers so now they're going to expect another one. This is no Spielberg, it's Malick! I do like SPR but Spielberg always hits you with that cheap sentimentality which, I know, is hard to resist- none of this in TLR- good! Sure the first half hour of SPR was incredible, but come on, that's the best part of the film- ok so I find Tom Hanks extremely irritaitng too. Let's just forget about SPR when talking about TRL. 2)The star system- the marquis at Tinsletown said in huge letters: starring Sean Penn, John Travolta, George Clooney- I laughed! I knew way beforehand how the "stars" were used. Penn is consistently in the film from start to finish but Travolta only a couple minutes and Clooney even less. This will further defy audience expectations, and may piss those off who expect to stare at John and George for 3hrs. I myself think it's an interesting use of the star system as most of the stars are cameos or supporting roles while relatively unknowns are the leads. These are the main reasons why many may not like this film plus it's Terrence Malick. This is totally a Malick film. His two previous films Badlands and Days of Heaven were among the best films of the 70s and were also not financially successful although critically praised. TLR has the same aesthetic qualties- attention to nature, beautiful cinematography, and emotion that comes out like poetry on the screen. It's just alot longer than his other films. Oh no! Not a long movie! Actually, my only regret was that is was not longer. I wanted to see more. I hear that Malick's first cut was 6hrs.- I wanna see that one! This film looked so beautiful yet was very effectively contrasted by the ugliness of war. Malick had me totally hypnotized from start to finish. By far one of the best films of the year, although obviously already under appreciated. Terry! Why have you been such a recluse! I have missed you!

  • Jan. 20, 1999, 1:39 a.m. CST


    by Pussycat

    Sorry my comments were posted 3 times. my computer freaked on me or something! opps!

  • Jan. 20, 1999, 7:06 p.m. CST

    Not Since 2001...

    by directDre

    I saw The TRL for the second time after a disturbing first viewing. To put it simply- this film is larger than life. It is a masterpiece. Private Ryan will be remembered as a great film and as 98's Academy Award Winner for many years to come and i am content. It was a very good movie and to blast it, as it has become popular since TRL's near and present coming, is deliberate movie-buff pretentiousness. (In a year that Out of Sight fails to find an audiance, in a season that Varsity Blues even captures a VAGUE interest, in a time that movies like Lost In Space find a budget after the script was passed, we should hold SPRyan as a blessing- a flawed, but beautiful film. Yes, speilberg's movies make a lot of money, as does he- LIVE WITH IT). Anyhooo, where was i? Oh yes. SPR will be this year's Oscar winner. But i predict TRL will have an immortality in cinema's history unparralled since say, Star Wars perhaps. And i haven't seen a more disturbed, clueless, absborbed, hateful, excited, snarling, yawning audience since Kubrick's 2001: A space odyssey. This is a film many will hate. Many will hate- as they should if they're not interested in the art of cinema. After all, i don't "get" Picasso or Warhol or Basquiar(i just know his movie)- because i really dont care too. But i like the more commercial medium of comic strips!!! Damn that Garflied is awesome. Anyhooo, that's my point. For true film buffs, this is a film to enjoy- and definitely one to see twice.Just like 2001

  • Jan. 21, 1999, 4:34 p.m. CST

    Oh brother...

    by Fixxxer

    Well, I'd have to say that no movie has ever disappointed me more than "The Thin Red Line." When it began, I was thrilled; the cinematography was gorgeous (as John Toll's always is) and Hans Zimmer's score seemed tremendous. Then the voiceovers began. And they never stopped. The voiceovers were the most pretentious, silly things I've seen in a movie in a while; somehow, every soldier in the war was a poet! The language used in these voiceovers was laughable, and all the time spent showing soldiers pondering the meaning of life could have been better used on the cutting room floor. How many more shots of nature did I need? How many gooey, reflective narrative passages did I need? How many lackluster battle sequences did I need? None. This movie, which I suppose most would view as a shockingly poetic and artistic experience, seems overdone and dishonest. If this is such an artsy, important film, why does every cameo by a big star seem so shameless? Look, it's John Travolta!!! Look, it's George Clooney!!!! Look, it's John Cusack!!! Look, it's Jared Leto, that teenybopper from "My So-Called Life!!!!" "The Thin Red Line" is a so-called great film, but I regard it as the most disappointing movie experience of my life. I was ready to leave around the 90 minute mark, and it carried on for 70 more.

  • Jan. 21, 1999, 6:45 p.m. CST

    A Thin Plot Line

    by RNieves

    You can rhapsodize all you want about how deep and gorgeous this film was but the truth is it had the thinnest of plots and really did not justify almost three hours of film. I want to talk about the voiceover narration which was practically the whole movie. There were times when you couldn't even tell which one of the characters was speaking. Plus, if you go by this movie, everybody involved in this particular battle were philospohers. Please! The average soldier during WWII probably just thought about surviving,,being clean and dry and going home. Not about God and the meaning of existance. All the narration in this film sounds like the same person which I'm sure was Mallick. I've seen all his films and I'm convinced he knows nothing about plot or character but I'm absolutely positive he's an expert on leaves, trees and most assuredly, himself! The Emperor has no clothes!

  • Jan. 21, 1999, 9:21 p.m. CST

    The Plot

    by wittgenstein

    I have no intention of trying to change the minds of people who dislike the movie, but if any of them are complaining about the plot, Malick isn't to blame. In fact he is faithful to almost the whole of the book. Only major changes are: Witt's death, and Captain's name (Stein instead of Staros). The plot points that people are complaining about come straight from Jones' book; "Dear John(Jack) Letter" is in the book, Keck(Woody Harrelson)'s death( the dialogue is word for word;" fucking recruit thing to do", Bosche(Clooney)'s speech at the end( near the end of the book);" that makes sgt. Welsh the mother..", Staros(Stein)'s self doubt, etc. etc. People should think twice before attacking the movie because it has a "stupid" plot- they are all from the source material. Malick never butchered the book the way people claim he has, no more than what Kubrick did to LOLITA, SHINING, BARRY LYNDON, and FULL METAL JACKET, or what Coppola did to GODFATHERs, and APOCALYPSE NOW( supposedly based on Heart of Darkness by Conrad).

  • Jan. 21, 1999, 11:12 p.m. CST

    This was one...

    by Merc

    .... Thin red line was one piece of crap film.... soooo disapointing.... damn crap. So full of itself... so full of useless "star" cameos... so full of useless poetry... so full of characters no one cares about.... so full of itself... so full of self importance.... so full of crap...

  • Jan. 22, 1999, 10:50 p.m. CST

    The Thin Red Line

    by Varus

    Gentlemen; It is with some trepidation, reluctance even, that I add my observations to this very interesting debate. I must preface my remarks by stating at the outset that my perspective is somehwat different. Shaped, I am sure, by my life experiences. For over two decades I was a professional soldier (infantry) and did frontline (and beyond) duty in three wars and God knows how many "police actions," contingencies, brushfires, whatever they were happily termed at the time -- from Southeast Asia to the Iraqi desert and the back streets of Somalia. It was, I may say, an interesting career which I hope none of you will ever duplicate as, in retrospect, I would not wish it on anyone. Normally I do not go to films like this....I have no desire to indulge in such things...been there, done that, don't care to repeat it. Thus it is entirely understandable that so few of you will share my observations. But that is perhaps a good thing. There are those who have observed that men in combat do not think or say the things thought and expressed in this film -- they could not be more mistaken. There are those who have said that what is portrayed in this film is unrealistic -- they are wrong. There are those who have said that the prevalence of shots of the environment are overdone and not appropriate or observed by the participants in a jungle war -- they are wrong. There are those who have said that the actors do not behave as "real soldiers" behave -- they are badly misinformed. There are those who have said that there is no plot -- they are perhaps lucky -- the plot is not only there but omnipresent -- hiding in plain sight. The human animal (I use the term with intent) is especially adept at not seeing what it does not want to see because to see it is psychologically and spiritually devastating. It is not, as Shakespeare would have said, "a consummation devoutly to be wished." Now, gentlemen, I will soldier no more. I am happily retired in a small town in the Midwest. Many of my friends are former soldiers -- a number of them veterans of the Pacific Theater. We have now all seen this film and I pass on the Pacific veterans' collective comment (which is rare as we old soldiers seldom talk of such things); "This was our war. This is not how we remember it but it is how we lived it." Yes, there is a difference. Now, in summing up all I can say for those who found the film boring, unrealistic, preachy and unfocused is; Good for you, and may you never have cause or reason to change your opinions. The price of a full understanding and appreciation is too high a price for any human to have to pay.

  • Jan. 22, 1999, 11:04 p.m. CST

    i cant stop thinking about this film


    I saw this film a week ago and i can't stop thinking about it. I loved this movie, but I felt that I couldn't talk about it afterwards. In the car on the way home, all I could say to my brother(who also loved it) was that it was exellent. I felt that this movie was a bit slow at times, but that's the only fault I think it has. I was totally entranced by everything in this movie. The acting was brilliant in everyway from every actor. It was shot beautifully by John Toll. And the score was a classic. Icant get the death scene of Witt out of my head, it was brutal of course, but i also found great peace in it. I will see this film again, and i will recommend it to anyone. p.s.-Don't compare it to Saving Private Ryan---i'ts impossible and pointless.

  • Jan. 22, 1999, 11:07 p.m. CST

    disappointing film

    by Disciple642

    I have to admit to being terribly disappointed by this movie. I really wanted it to be good. And judging by the response of the other movie-goers in the theater, I wasn't alone. As soon as the credits rolled, there was a mad dash for the exits. And I counted at least 15 persons who left early. What is so sad is, this could have been a great movie. After watching most movies I want to see the director's cut. After this one, I would have rather seen the studio's cut! All that pretentious poetry and inner-being new age crap could have been cut, along with all of this natives are so innocent and peaceful and loving crap, and the movie would have been much better. And faster paced. And what is with the American bashing? This movie made the Japanese look like pitiful innocent defenders of the land, while the American soldiers looked like savages. I'm about half-way through the book right now, and the perspective from Jones was the exact opposite.

  • Jan. 23, 1999, 1:18 a.m. CST

    An example of a really bad movie

    by MoffPeter

    I'm sorry but this movie was terrible. A total piece of crap. A complete let down. I wish I could get my money back and the 2+ hours of my life I spent watching it. Shame shame. First off, this movie was long, just for the sake of being a long movie. I guess that's the trendy thing to do when making a film today. Secondly, what's with all the cameos? You had stars in and out of this film like wildfire. Man, I couldn't keep up. Does development of a character mean anything? I kept waiting for Sean Penn to kick some guys ass. And talk about missed opportunities. That tall grass afforded an excellent opportunity to add suspense to the GI's attempting to take the hill. Man, I was waiting for some Japanese soldier to pop up at anytime. Nope. Remember how scary the tanks seemed in PRIVATE RYAN? That was pure suspense. The same thing could have been accomplished with the grass. With all due respect Harry, I know you liked this film. However I found it pretentious and self indulgent. Those long scenes reminded me of a bad student film. (Hey, let's put every take in the movie!) I went into the theatre with the mindset that this movie was supposed to be a psychological experience. If that's what the director intended, then he missed the mark terribly. I just wish I would have walked out on this movie early as some people did.

  • Jan. 24, 1999, 1:47 a.m. CST

    The Thin Red Line

    by Smokey

    This is the first review of the Thin Red Line that i have totally agreed with. I can relate to almost all of the things said in it. It is the same way that I felt after seeing it. Good job.

  • Jan. 24, 1999, 5:16 a.m. CST

    really that bad?

    by Pussycat

    mostly in response to MOFF: So you think it's a bad movie? Well, I totally respect that. I like it when people say that a movie is bad and back it w/ valid opinions instead of just saying "it sux". Although I think this movie is great and I wanna see it over and over again. Is long trendy? It didn't work for The Postman, but I didn't hear too many complaints about Hamlet and most people i talked to didn't realize that Heat was 3hrs. etc. Just think, Malick's first cut was 6hrs- I wanna see that one- and Gary Oldman and Mickey Rourke were supposedely cut out of the film. Ok so besides Penn and Nolte the stars were reduced to cameos which goes to the notion of subverting the star system, in which they didn't mind accepting pay cuts to be in a Malick film. Actually it puts them more on the everyman soldier level. Why does Penn have to kick ass? This is not a glorified action film- it's ugly war and I thought he was a good soldier anyway- maybe not kicking ass further defies stereotype which I always think is refreshing. Also I saw plenty of Japanese soldiers popping up and the tall grass shots further intensified the uncertainty and chaos of jungle warfare. This film is self-indulgent? Isn't almost every film self-indulgent in different respects? This is like a student film? I wish! In my occupation I see student films all the time and in which I am sorry to say only 10% if that are even worthy to be screened. If only more films had the unique vision and artistry as this film. Maybe it's the uniqueness and anti-mainstream elements that turned many people off to this film. The same can be said of Malick's two previous beautiful films of the 70s. I totally embrace Thin Red Line when put up against the many redundant unoriginal films that somehow make it to the big screen. And the tanks in Private Ryan? How was that suspenseful? I was hoping just blow them away and end the film before Spielberg gets too sentimental on us. Plus, to me it doesn't seem that tanks were all that feasible in Gaudacanal. Hell, they presented their share of problems in certain European terrains. Sure they were good for Rommel in Africa. And what about The Big Red One? Nobody mentions that one. I think the best WWII film until Thin Red Line. Of course I respect such opinions as Moff's and there is no gain in attacking someone for their interpretations. As far as my viewpoint goes, I am totally dumfounded by the amount of negative response to this brilliant film. Sure I expected a fair amount but not like this. This was one of my most anticipaited films of the year. I went in with very high expectations and I was much more than satisfied. Only regret i had was at the end- I said is that all? Dammit! I wanna see more! Really? I've been sitting here for 2hrs 45mins? Definately not a waste of my life and sure I will spend many more hours w/ repeated viewings!

  • Jan. 24, 1999, 11:51 a.m. CST

    The question of Star Cameos

    by Bundren

    I have no problem with star cameos in a large-scope film such as this one. But in the TRL these are also "character cameos". What I mean by this is that a character, such as Woody Harrelson's or John Cusack's, is nowhere to be seen until their "moment". Or, after their small purpose is served, they disappear, never to be seen again while we instead are treated to shots of extras or other characterless-characters who serve no purpose to the story. For example, where did John Cusack go after his heroic mission? After chastising Nick Nolte, did he just keep walking? Or with Woody Harrelson, we get an establishing shot or two of Woody on the boat, and then we don't see him for half and hour or so until his "big scene". The substitute? More shots of faceless soldiers who don't propel the story any further. Or how about Nick Nolte? After Elias Koteas, did he relieve himself of command too? He just disappears for the last forty five minutes or so with no explanation. It just seemed so obvious in this film that the major actors were only contractually bound to be there for a certain period of time, and then they were on the plane home. When one of them stepped forward, it was like a spotlight clicked on above them. It was incredibly distracting not very credible for a film that is supposed to treat the subject of war with realism and integrity.

  • Jan. 25, 1999, 8:21 a.m. CST

    The idiots give themselves away.

    by Santouche

    "It was incredibly distracting not very credible for a film that is supposed to treat the subject of war with realism and integrity." Bundren, how would you know how credible or realistic this picture is anyway? What is your experience with war? Has your idea of war been completely shaped by war movies? Is there a certain way a soldier talks or acts or thinks? What does it matter whether we find out what happens to Cusack or Nolte or anyone? The fact that we don't find out is intrinsic to the experience of soldiers in a war. All of the complaints I've read on this board, all of the reasons posted as to why this movie sucks are the very reasons why this was one of the best movies I've EVER SEEN.

  • Jan. 25, 1999, 12:19 p.m. CST

    Good works of art divide

    by Jeffdaddy

    Harry, in your review you stated, "Like all good works of art, it divides the audience and provokes conversation." You could say the same thing for what you deemed the worst film of the year, "Beloved". Many loved it, you hated it. Now maybe you can understand why so many people didn't respond to "The Thin Red Line". You could say it was their "Beloved".

  • Jan. 25, 1999, 2:32 p.m. CST

    Re: Santouche

    by Bundren

    You're right, I do not have the first inkling of what war is like. I don't think I ever said I did. What I did say was that the TRL and many of its supporters do claim to know, but "realism" in any storytelling situation -- whether physical or psychological, whether in war or a domestic drama -- does not include, in my opinion, characters who are so apparently unimportant that they arrive or disappear without explanation after serving their ideological purposes to the story. The persistence of this problem in this film only cheapens and simplifies what should be a complex treatment of a complex issue. The "characters" in this film are not complex, but simply symbols, either of the "faceless soldier" of certain ideological beliefs concerning the nature of war. I suppose someone could say that this is Malick's whole point, that war is dehumanizing and destroys the individual. But if this is the case, I never saw the "human" or "individual" qualities that were lost in the process -- the characters were mere symbols or stereotypes from the first frame of this film. Like I said before, the themes of this film were "War is bad. Because lots of people die. And lots of pretty things in nature get destroyed. So we shouldn't have any more wars." I don't apologize for expecting and wanting something more complex than this.

  • Jan. 25, 1999, 2:47 p.m. CST

    Re: Santouche (Part 2)

    by Bundren

    I'm sorry, but I forgot one more important theme in this movie: "War is bad, because some soldiers got Dear John letters, which is not right because these soldiers obviously truly loved these women and had a deep relationship with them because they daydreamed about making out with them all the time and tossing off bad poetry like 'I was a prisoner, and you set me free.'".

  • Jan. 25, 1999, 3:25 p.m. CST

    Thin Red Line is a welcome return to 70's style

    by Mac

    It was so refreshing to finally see a movie that didn't pretend to have all the answers at the end of an hour and a half or two hours. I saw the Thin Red Line over a week ago and find myself thinking about it constantly. Ever since seeing Days of Heaven I have been waiting anxiously to see Terrence Malick's next movie. He was truly one of the geniuses of the 70's (even though he only made two films)and it is nice to see him back in action. I now know why he waited so long to make another film. I couldn't believe people were leaving only an hour and a half into the film!! These must have been the morons who thought Godzilla was movie making at it's best! It just shows that audiences now are not able to "work" at watching a movie. It has to be quick and simple for them... it's really sad. Kudos to Malick for following his vision and supplying us with a film that asks questions and lets us come up with the answers.

  • Jan. 26, 1999, 9:49 a.m. CST


    by Santouche

    I think the tag line line of the film, "Every man fights his own war," kind of says it all. Instead of generalizing the theme of all anti-war films, "war is bad," you have to look at the constant, if you will, rhythm of the film. Characters ARE presented and identified. You may have to pay close attention, but they each have their own reasons or stakes or images or mantras or ideals which fuel or comfort them or direct their own actions. It isn't necessarily an original idea, but Malick commits to it wholeheartedly. The war is the major "player" in this ensemble, and each supporting character has a point of view. Also, "the thin red line" is there for all of them. Crossing it represents something different for each soldier. In most cases, madness. In others, compromise, or numbness, or enlightenment, or simply death. The voice-over narration which some found to be cheesy, or an example of bad poetry, I found quite eloquent and endearing. None of it was particularly profound; in fact, it was greatly cliche, and THAT'S why it fit perfectly. It was an injection of familiar thought, simple universal questions and comments struggling to penetrate a chaotic world. This is what I'm thinking today. Tomorrow this movie may conjure up something else for me. SORRY, but I thought it was that dense. I guess you just have to be open to receiving an impression of something rather than the obvious "message." I recommend seeing it a second time, if you have the three hours to spare.

  • Jan. 27, 1999, 12:18 a.m. CST

    THIN RED LINE... stunning

    by Bitch Moan

    I've resisted commenting on this movie "with every fibre of my being". For anyone who has seen it, you don't doubt why some people walk away loathing the piece while others walk away embracing it. It is a heavy film. Not like everyone said SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (sorry for the standard comparison) would be. After PRIVATE RYAN I left feeling numb from Speilbergs ability to make a point. After leaving THIN RED LINE I wasn't sure how I should feel or even if I had the ability to reach that conclusion. This is powerful moviemaking! After I left the theater I stepped into the world with different eyes. It lasted just a second, but for me when a film can follow you out of the theater for more than a day it is destined to be a classic.

  • Jan. 29, 1999, 4:10 p.m. CST

    My 2 Cents

    by Whiskey Nick

    I wish I could have been around for the release of 2001. I'm sure the reaction must have been similar. Granted 2001 may have made money from all of the hippies that really got of on it, but I wonder how many truly appreciated it then? How many love it now? I will grant that *IN GENERAL* a movie needs to have strong plot and character development. Those are essential elements for storytelling, be it a screenplay, novel or stage play. However, this is a film (like 2001) that transcends conventional storytelling norms. It requires that you leave any and all psychological baggage at the door. To truly apprecitate it you must turn off you mind and let it wash over you. That is a lot to ask from an audience and I can understand why the reaction has been so critical. I don't blame them. This film is not for everyone. I was fortunate enough to see it a 2nd time in a nearly deserted theater with excellent THX sound. I felt that Mallick had made the film just for me. And the world was a better place. It would be impossible for the majority of filmgoers to have a similar reaction. I just wish it was possible. Thier loss.

  • Jan. 30, 1999, 1:46 a.m. CST

    Thin Red Line

    by Richie

    Please note that these are only my impressions, and I do not intend flame wars. This movie was interesting. I could see where Malick was going with it. He was addressing the basic theme that there was really no point to war, and that in the end the world is no better or worse (the last image shows this), but he hammers this point in about 80 times during the course of this film. It is even said by one of the main characters:"What difference do you think you can make, one man in all this madness?" Yes. Good line. But the war scenes felt flat, uneven... not chaotic like war but rather disinterested. I can see why the nature scenes were injected. They meant to show that beautiful nature does keep going, and going. Unfortunately, the flashbacks the main(?) character had were unevenly placed throughout the film and somewhat poorly paced. As well, the narrations all sounded like they were coming from the same guy. They all thought the same, in some quasi-poetic sense. I think the only character who really got it was the crazy guy (the one who knew they were just dirt and it didn't matter). He disappeared. I didn't see him get killed. Nor did I see Cusack or Nolte's exit from the film. They just disappeared. Extremely poor editing at this point. The score was excellent, minimalist for an epic presentation. But, in the end I felt as numb as that soldier because I didn't feel at all endeared towards those characters, and the war scenes did not take my breath away. SPR did have all those things. TRL had a LOT of potential, unrealized. If Malick were to go back to the editing room and remove and replace some of the stuff with the other miles of film he shot, he could have something a little more solid and less uneven. And to all of you here who post that anyone who didn't enjoy this is 'pea-brained' or a loser, let me remind you right now this is the InterNet, not a nationally syndicated talk show. What goes on here does not matter, and if you were smarter, you'd realise that and not bother spending time posting messages about how brilliant you are because NO ONE CARES. Richard (

  • Jan. 30, 1999, 10:24 p.m. CST

    I *tried* to like it, but ...

    by BrianPHudson

    Sorry, Harry. I tried to like--heck, even love--this film, and there were parts where I did. But there came a point in this film where I JUST WANTED IT TO END because it was obvious they were going nowhere, and never had any intention *of* going anywhere in the first place. Quite frankly, it took itself *too* seriously. I understand the point--the futility of war, the ceaseless existence of a soldier--and I can appreciate the artistry of it, in the same way I can appreciate the talent of someone like Picasso or Kadinsky: I see where there's a scheme to things, where there's "talent", where there's "art", but it doesn't change the fact that I don't care to ever see it again. The prolonged battle sequence was amazing stuff--Nick Nolte's obsessive need to win the war, especially. But once they got off the front lines, the movie just lost it. TRL was too depressing, too long, and certainly not the kind of experience I go to the movie theatre for.

  • Jan. 31, 1999, 11:17 p.m. CST

    Re: Character Development in SPR, TRL.

    by Shadowcat

    I really can't see how people don't see character development in TRL, and laud praise over character development in SPR. That somehow since there are so many characters in TRL, no character gets developed enough. I wholeheartedly disagree. Just because some of the changes in the characters aren't more blatantly exposed ("Gosh, Cap'n! You were a ************?! Golly Gee..." (didn't want to spoil the highly anti-climatic and predictable SPR "discovery")), and much of it internal.. doesn't mean the characters don't evolve!. Man, I can think of at least five changes in characters, if not more. And as many have said before.. Malick is also reaching for a "group consciousness" that definitely morphs over time. And look at SPR... wasn't one of the main points (or so we were told...) to say.. hey.. look, these were just guys doin' a job so they could get home and leave this war behind them. The ONLY fairly well developed character in SPR was Edward Burns! What Tom Hanks because of his revelation and the fact that he was gruff but kind? Puleaze.

  • Feb. 1, 1999, 3:02 p.m. CST

    Thin Red Line

    by Surfstylin

    Well, having seen the movie about a week back I wanted to write a review because it is most definately a review worthy film. For want of any ideas on what to say I waited, and then it hit me. The Thin Red Line was like the superbowl, what with all the the pre-battle and post-battle commentary that seemed to stretch on for a week. That is not to say that the thoughts portayed about battle weren't resounding with insightfulness and absolute truth, but like the superbowl coverage there are only so many things you can say without causing people to get up and go searching for thr remote.

  • Feb. 1, 1999, 6:14 p.m. CST

    one person's thoughts on an amazing film

    by ewangirl

    i must say, first, this film is not for everyone. my mom remarked after seeing this, that you cannot compare SPR w/ TRL. i know i can't since i have not seen SPR nor wanted to. my mom made the observation that SPR shows the ugliness, courage and brutality of war itself. while TRL shows the souls of men in war. completely different. there is nothing i can add to those who have praised this beautiful and haunting and devastating film. this affected me more than any film i have seen since the french epic 'queen margot'. i just wanted to throw in that Jim Caviezal gave the best performance in any film i have seen all year and as on a whole, in a long time. his character, private witt, is the glue, the soul of the whole film(and the Montgomery Clift's character in From Here to Eternity). he is the one we meet first, awol. away from war and living in a paradise comtemplating the meaning of his life. he is afraid of death. his mother was not and bravely faced it. we watch his transformation and how he affects sean penn's character. he believes in the good of man's nature despite seeing all the horror and pain around him. you know he is going to die and as sean penn's character remarks, for nothing. but he doesn't. he saves his friends and in the end, bravely faces his death. and this beautiful and caring young man's life is cut too short. leaving sean penn's character anger and upset. other men around him are numb to feeling anything for anyone, but he still cares and that is the light witt earlier said he saw in senn's character. just recalling that moment in the film, i am hit again with how emotionally moving this whole film was. it was an experience i will always carry. this hit my heart and that this the power of this film and the beauty of it.

  • Feb. 9, 1999, 9:35 p.m. CST

    "Rendezvous with Death" --Battlefield Poets

    by Johanna

    To those who believe and claim that soldiers do not think in poetry, EVER, or that SPR is "more realistic" than TLR BECAUSE its characters do not ponder the age-old conflicts of beauty and evil nor pity their enemy -- I could express disbelief that none of you seem to have heard of Wilfred Owen, or Alan Seeger, or EA MacKintosh, or read "In Flanders' Fields" or "Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" or "Naming of Parts," and discourse for hours and pages on the intimate and historical connections between risking death and seeking meaning in life . . . ...or I could give you the words of a soldier who DID invade Normandy, and eventually paid the same price as Miller & company-- VERGISSMEINICHT ["Forget me not"] Three weeks gone and the combatants gone, returning over the nightmare ground we found the place again, and found the soldiers sprawling in the sun. The frowning barrel of his gun overshadowing. As we came on that day, he hit my tank with one like the entry of a demon. Look. Here in the gunpit spoil the dishonored picture of his girl who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinicht in a copybook gothic script. We see him almost with content abased, and seeming to have paid and mocked at by his own equipment that's hard and good when he's decayed. But she would weep to see today how on his skin the swart flies move; the dust upon the paper eye and the burst stomach like a cave. For here the lover and killer are mingled who had one body and one heart. And death who had the soldier singled has done the lover mortal hurt. --Keith Douglas (1920 - 1944) ----------------------------- Remember: Socrates too was a poet as well as a philosopher, whose "simple questions" still worry us today -- and he too took up the javelin in defense of his hometown, yet never ceased to wonder . . .

  • Feb. 9, 1999, 9:35 p.m. CST

    "Rendezvous with Death" --Battlefield Poets

    by Johanna

    To those who believe and claim that soldiers do not think in poetry, EVER, or that SPR is "more realistic" than TLR BECAUSE its characters do not ponder the age-old conflicts of beauty and evil nor pity their enemy -- I could express disbelief that none of you seem to have heard of Wilfred Owen, or Alan Seeger, or EA MacKintosh, or read "In Flanders' Fields" or "Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" or "Naming of Parts," and discourse for hours and pages on the intimate and historical connections between risking death and seeking meaning in life . . . ...or I could give you the words of a soldier who DID invade Normandy, and eventually paid the same price as Miller & company-- VERGISSMEINICHT ["Forget me not"] Three weeks gone and the combatants gone, returning over the nightmare ground we found the place again, and found the soldiers sprawling in the sun. The frowning barrel of his gun overshadowing. As we came on that day, he hit my tank with one like the entry of a demon. Look. Here in the gunpit spoil the dishonored picture of his girl who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinicht in a copybook gothic script. We see him almost with content abased, and seeming to have paid and mocked at by his own equipment that's hard and good when he's decayed. But she would weep to see today how on his skin the swart flies move; the dust upon the paper eye and the burst stomach like a cave. For here the lover and killer are mingled who had one body and one heart. And death who had the soldier singled has done the lover mortal hurt. --Keith Douglas (1920 - 1944) ----------------------------- Remember: Socrates too was a poet as well as a philosopher, whose "simple questions" still worry us today -- and he too took up the javelin in defense of his hometown, yet never ceased to wonder . . .

  • Feb. 10, 1999, 9:31 p.m. CST

    Thin Red Line

    by MRamius

    When I came out of this movie the first thing I thought of was the books I read in my old english lit classes, the ones written by famous people that were supposed to be great, but I just sat there wondering why anyone thought this crap was any good. I guess I came into this film with totally the wrong expectations. After seeing Saving Private Ryan and seeing all the big name talent, I thought that this film would rock, but was totally bored by all the imagery that was used as a subsitute for a plot line. I might of enjoyed it more if I hadn't have those high expectations. By the time I saw the tenth bird shot, I was wondering if this guy had some kind of fetish. And what the hell was all of the flashbacks of the wife. I thought that they just broke up the continuity of the movie as I waited for the movie start again. I think that there was a great movie here amoung the focusless mess; I had hope during the middle hour-and-a-half of combat when they were driving up the hill, I thought it was some fantastic film making, especially Nolte and Cusack, but it couldn't come close to making up for the rest of the time that I sat there waiting for someone to puy me out of my misery. I guess I should have brought one of those books along to pass the time.

  • Feb. 15, 1999, 8:34 a.m. CST

    Thin Red Bore

    by freddy33

    I have been been going to the movies for the past 20 years, and never have I walked out in the middle of one; until the Thin Red Line. I have seen awful movies, long movies, & boring movies. TRL combines all of those characteristics into one, big piece of crap. I cannot come up with one positive comment about it. How it garnered an Oscar nomination is totally beyond me. I think my main problem is with how the studio marketed it as a "war film". I believe that is deception of the highest order. The studio probably realized that saying what it really was, an art film, wouldn't bring in the $$. I suppose this film draws the crowd that believes that only films with limited appeal are worthy of high praise. One more thing; some people defend TRL along the lines of: "If you don't like it, then you're just a dumb-ass hick who doesn't get it". I don't buy that argument for a second. It is just a lame excuse for your own bad taste.

  • Feb. 16, 1999, 1:29 p.m. CST

    fell asleep

    by newworld

    I will say one thing about the movie. It was best 3 hour nap I had. I was disappointed in the movie because I came into expecting something else. The movie previews had it coming out like a huge action flick with nonstop violence. That is what I was expecting, and when a movie, any movie, does not live up to the expectations I will hate it. I counted it was almost 1 1/2 hours before a single gun was shot. I was hoping someone would fall down and accidently shoot a tree or something, and when the "big battle" scene was through there was still another hour left of the movie. I mean when it showed them geting back on the boat. I was like is that it, nothing left, I could have left a hour ago. I was thouroughly(SP) disgusted in the movie. I might like it later when it comes to video and I watch it again, but at least I will be better prepared to what kind of movie it was. Also if the promoters would have forwarned me; I would of seen it anyways and maybe just maybe I would of liked it.

  • Feb. 17, 1999, 7:04 p.m. CST

    But is it art?

    by whytwolf

    I'm of two minds on this movie. On the one hand, yes, I can see that it is designed more as an artist's vision of what he thinks war typifies, and this movie is his attempt to pass to us the message. This is not a bad thing. As a writer, my job is to communicate my beliefs and feelings to my audience. Unfortunatly, I found myself turned off by this movie, simply because it seemed to damned pretentious. I spent three years in the military myself, and while I was never in combat, I have firends who have been peacekeepers in Yugoslavia and elsewhere. I found this movie somewhat insulting in that it shows the common soldier as some sort of dim-witted animal while under fire, and conversly guilt-ridden while not. Even in WWII this was patently wrong. there is more than mere survival at stake out there. Even under fire, a motivating force for any soldier are his buddies beside him in the trenches. This movie never illustrates this, and the courage that many fighting men find under the most dire of circumstances. 'Saving Private Ryan' shows this couraged, making it a far superior movie. Other movies do a much better job at the reverse. 'Apocalypse Now', 'Platoon' and 'Full metal Jacket' show us the harsh brutalities of war, and what it can do to those who lack the courage to stay true to their morals. Unfortunatly, 'A Thin Red Line' is simply one man's self-indulgent trip through a jungle, and the audience is forced along for the ride.

  • Feb. 18, 1999, 12:12 a.m. CST


    by Santouche

    So, "whytwolf," I guess because The Thin Red Line is a film that doesn't necessarily "prove the necessity of war," or VALIDATE your choice of duty, it falls short? YOU HAVE BEEN FOOLED, and YOU GIVE YOURSELF AWAY. Be unselfish enough to realize it isn't about you and your relatively young impressionable "soldier" friends (or perhaps it is; like all good works of art, The Thin Red Line asks questions). Give The Thin Red Line another look, aside from the stereotypical "grunt" movies you so love. You may just see yourself in there somewhere, as many veterans already have.

  • Feb. 20, 1999, 10:36 p.m. CST

    Once again, a necessary innoculation of fact--

    by Johanna

    As I have offered before, I will e-mail to anyone interested in _learning_ rather than "hearing his or her own head roar", the facts that bear out TRL, both in Jones original vision and Malick's largely unaltered rendering of it. Anything you're blaming Malick for on this board, you should really blame JOnes for -- and he really was there. But so were lots of other people, and I've been driven to weeks of research -- of 1940s materials, not modern ones -- of official and personal source materials, and f'r crying out loud, there's more _fact_ in TRL than there is in many pictures which claim to be _non-fiction_! (Malick's obviously done all his homework, but like the guy in the Aesop's fable with the real pig, he's booed off the stage by those who prefer the pig-imitators.) And it's not an anti-war movie, unless you come to it anti-war. In fact, the real conflict is the War of Light and Darkness, and I can & will happily prove it from internal and external sources, if anyone wants to discuss it in e-mail. PS: I _do_ mean _discuss_, btw.

  • Feb. 22, 1999, 4:01 p.m. CST

    There I was...No Shit....

    by X-Ed

    Let me put this film into perspective for yooz bone-heads. To my surprise I assumed Ain't It Cool Film Affectionatos could see further than the average film goer. Just like most Americans today, alot of yiz gots a short attention span and yer so spoiled you lost the capacity to empathize. I'll try not to bore those who bore easily. Someone said TRL should not have been marketed as a WAR FILM. Sorry Jack, it was one! WAR FILMS should be different from action/adventure; realize the difference. Having spent 4 years in the U.S. Army Infantry (87-91: Quick, what 2 conflicts took place in those years!) I can tell ya this movie was on the money, even more than Pvt. Ryan. Ryan was great, it was brutal;but it was a Spielberg method film all the way. Anyone who has been in HARMS WAY and endured military training will tell ya you can't stay in the present when yer under those conditions or you'll snap! That is part of what TRL conveyed. It just told the story in a more poetic fashion rather than a rollercoaster way like Pvt, Ryan. Thin RED LINE was also a semi-bio, SPR was total fiction. In WAR there is alot of boring mundane time. Even during the battle there was a long lull in the fighting. That my friends is modern combat. Not quite as romantic as in BRAVEHEART. TRL was militarily and technically superior. From Callin a FIRE MISSION to Japanese Special Forces to (YES) thoughs beautiful birds in the trees. My advise to film affectioados is to give this film another chance (in theaters especially) and keep in mind the fear, loneliness and total suffering of the American fighting man in WWII.

  • Feb. 24, 1999, 6:46 p.m. CST

    good...but too poetic

    by Agges

    I think the major battle sequence and Sean Penn's character saved the movie... Too many cameos..really the only 'big name' that should have been there was Sean Penn...the others though small roles made it hard to appreciate the movie for its worth. It had worth..certainly not a walk out movie... The review was a bit wayward...there was not much of forest fighting and a sense of the fear of snipers etc as suggested,....the main sequence was grassland, beautiful scenery by the way, The only part of the poetry that stuck in the mind was 'these men i lived with...friends ...brothers...' The rest was as a whole too much...i don't think i even heard some of it because it was more a distraction than a part of the movie... The discussion between the Colonel and the Captain..' how many of your men are you willing to lay down?...' struck the viewer with the truth of the situation...and was probably one of the things that saved the movie from being too poetic, arty and hollow.

  • Feb. 26, 1999, 9:22 p.m. CST

    A wonderful movie...

    by LeTo

    First of all, I want to say I agree completely with your review of the movie. I think it was just wonderful. As I am writing this, the soundtrack is playing behind me and I am back in the haunting feeling of the movie. The scenes were astonishing and the characters so real. Saving private Ryan was a good movie with probably the best depiction of a war scene in the beginning but other than that, it was mostly like the other war movies. But TRL, wow! Seeing the fear in the soldiers' eyes, hearing their breath while they are hiding and trying to go up to the bunker and all. It was so real to me. I think war must be like that. I honestly think that if I'd be in that situation, only one thing in my head would keep me sane, thinking about the people who love me back home. Seeing this guy thinking about his wife. It was his only reason to continue and survive. I know that would be the kind of thought I would have. And thinking about the stupidity of war while looking at the beauty of nature. It's almost impossible to explain if it makes sense or not. One other scene who got me was when you can see the soldiers waiting in a field...wind blowing and time passing as the sun goes down. I can imagine them waiting for hours without moving a finger cuz they are so scared to be shot! I wish that movie would win the oscar for best movie but sadly, I know that Saving private Ryan has more chance cuz of Spielberg. I think he is fantastic and I love his work but this time, someone else made a movie who touched me more than one of his movies. It's a movie you should think about for a long time after seeing it. I must admit I thought it was long but thinking about it afterward, I think that lenght was necessary to really show everything. That's my opinion!

  • March 2, 1999, 4:08 p.m. CST

    Perfect Bookends of WWII

    by SirAlanSmithee

    I think the most important thing about The Thin Red Line as opposed to Saving Private Ryan is that both films serve as a really impressive and important complement to each other. The poetic lyricism of Thin Red Line, the Harsh realism of Saving Private Ryan. The "Jesus Christ I can't beleive this is happening!" feeling of SPR, the "what is the nature of war?" musings of TRL. The meat-grinder landing on the Normandy beaches, the bloodless trot onto the sand and into the hills of Guadalcanal. Both are monumental achievements, I think, in the way War is viewed at the movies. Now, in an interesting turn-around of events, I saw TRL before SPR, because over the summer my wife was pregnant and neither of us had the time or money to go see many movies. So, last January, I went to the movies for the first time in a long time and saw Thin Red Line, and walked out of the theatre thinking it was the finest movie I have seen in quite a while. I completely agree with Harry's assessment, that I WAS one of those guys, that I WOULD think of those kinds of things while bullets and blood and explosions and everything else are raging around me. I would want to make it home to my wife, and my daughter. I could identify with a lot of what they were saying. Then, a few weeks ago, when they re-released Saving Private Ryan, I went to see it for the first time, and when it was over, and the shock had worn off, I asked myself which was the finer movie. I was unable to answer the question then, and I still can't now. I even find it hard to point out each films strengths and weaknesses, because I think there were deliberate decisions made during production that people look at now and see as being failures or stupid mistakes or whatever. I think it was a very intentional decision to make the characters hard to distinguish in TRL, but I consider myself pretty observant, and I was able to tell who was who. There was also a big arguement between me and my friends concerning (SPOILER ALERT!!) The death of Private Witt. There he was, surrounded by Japanese soldiers, looking around, knowing he's caught, and he raises his rifle anyway and is shot to death. The general consensus was that it was worthless, pointless death. However, if you think about it, what we see about him and his life shows he has no other destiny. From the first time we meet him, and see and hear his thoughts about his mothers death, its clear that his final destination can only be the grave. Alternately, after I saw SPR, my friends all had an almost universal hatred of Corporal Upham, after the scene involving Private Mellish, and they all said that there is no way they could have let that happen. I could empathize with him, even as I hated his actions and his cowardice. Also, I believe the somewhat stereotypical characterizations were a reflection of the different types of people who went to war. Damn, I lost my train of thought, so I'll just finish this up by saying that while each movie individually is an impressive achievement, both movies together make the greatest war film ever made.

  • April 14, 1999, 9:24 p.m. CST

    Where does this evil come from

    by Count Lupis

    I understand Harry when you say this movie isn't for everyone, but I can't help but despise all those who walked out on it(including my sister)with whom I went to see the first time, I've seen 3 times since. Let's do something here that most think is silly but I think is right on, compare it with the good but manipulative and ultra-patriotic Saving Private Ryan. In Ryan all the Germans are either unseen or are lying sadist bastards, when they die , it's a non-event, Spielberg and Rodat were too busy wallowing in self rightousness to consider that most of these guys where normal guys who had been fed tons of shit and had no other option but to fight. Malick on the other hand shows the Japenese suffering in a singular unforgattable emotionally riveting sequence that just blew my mind. You see , it's that kind of self rightousness displayed in Ryan is where the evil comes from, each man thinks that his is fighting for whats right, for country, for God, and thus does stop to think about blowing millions of people away as the U.S. did in Japan with the atomic bomb. Back to the movie now, the Hans Zimmer score is incredible, but you already know all the technical stuff, so I won't bither you with that, I just like to mention the incredible montage on the animalistic effect war has on men, and show the soldier in the rain holding the liver of a Japenese crying thinking how did he come to this , looks at the sky, and a voice-over says "where does all this evil come from", and he's wondering why God who created this beauty would lead him here. Personally, and forgive and I think God exists but he is sadistic. What a messy comment, but it might have a couple of ideas, I could talk about this movie for hours, it's the best,most thoughtful and moving film of the year, oh and how about that inverted shot of Private Bell's wifes on the

  • April 24, 1999, 7:06 a.m. CST

    thin red line

    by showcase

    Just like to say that in years to come the very same people who walked out half way through this movie will probably acknowlege this movie as the classic it is,,,as for me im glad that occasionally movies like this get made,,movies that ask the viewer to put something in in order to fully appreciate it instead of force feeding us our emotions,,this movie might not go down well with a bucket of popcorn but it rang some bells for me,,,official ,,their is no justice in this world,,,,no acadamy award for best cinematography,,?????????

  • May 26, 2000, 1:56 p.m. CST

    The Thin Red Line was great

    by Andymation

    Jim Cavizel for president! Yeah, that's right. Surrounded by superb stars like Nick Nolte, Sean Penn and Woody Harrelson he stands out as the film's best performer. Finally a film that takes a soldier's mind seriously. Even though "Saving Private Ryan" was better I felt that this film gave me something special.

  • July 1, 2000, 1:13 p.m. CST

    Beyond a Movie

    by raged out

    Profoundly disgusting and profoundy depressing is the fact that people seem to love Saving Private Ryan so much and to hate The Thin Red Line so much. My opinion on this. Saving Private Ryan: gore. Spectacular gore. But more than that, I suppose. It's about war and what war physically is. It's a bloody documentary of it (and would have been just that had the story been diluted even a little bit more). It's honest and true. It's physical reality. And everyone stands around awed and shocked by that... What a crock. What garbage. Go to a country that has a war going on right now, you can see this stuff for free. It happens all the time. The physical essence of blood and guts is the result of war. What is war? Why does it occur? What are the reasons? Where's it come from? What's the point? These are the real questions, and they're not physical at all. These are the questions worth answering, and they're difficult. Look at the The Thin Red Line again. It attempts these. It cares nothing for physical space or reality. It transcends these things. It's philosophy. It's important. It's tougher than making people blow up in all the right ways. It's a possible explanation for why all that gore is happening in the first place. Look at the themes. Apocalypse Now (like Heart of Darkness) lays out that there is a darkness in all our hearts and that in the absence of civilization, we will release that darkness. The Thin Red Line teeters on that line for much of the movie, and then offers that perhaps there is something aside from darkness in all our hearts. That we can maybe come to an understanding. Apocalypse Now shows the evil. The Thin Red Line asks "This great evil, where's it come from?" Then later, it asks "Love. Where does it come from?" It nails the duality. It establishes that we have drawn these thin red lines around countries, around races, around religions, around individuals. "When were we together?" it asks. You go and answer that question. We should be able to see beyond the results of things like war to the reasons for things like war. That's how we can perhaps get past such barbarism. Feeling repulsed at the sight of a car wreck isn't enough. Finding out why it happened is what'll help prevent the next one. Here's to anyone who loved Thin Red Line (thank goodness Mr. Knowles did). To those who swear by Saving Private Ryan: open your eyes. There's more.

  • Feb. 27, 2003, 8:45 a.m. CST

    Saw The Thin Red Line again...

    by FD Resurrected

    On laserdisc for the fourth time 2/26/03 at six in the morning at night till sunrise after two years on the shelf. The most haunting and emotionally resonant movie I've ever seen despite its editing flaw. The movie gave me one of the best movie-going experiences I've had, period - I'll never forget it. Terrence Malick is an amazing director. Kudos to Martin Scorsese for calling The Thin Red Line the second best film of the 90's on Roger Ebert special program Top Ten Movies of the Decade. Images, dialogues and sounds from The Thin Red Line will stay with me forever.

  • Oct. 12, 2003, 11:56 a.m. CST

    The Thin Red Line

    by chandlerfan

    Hello. I've seen "Saving Private Ryan" once in the cinema, and "The Thin Red Line" twice. The first time on video and the second time when it was shown on TV. I thought they were both excellent movies but I preferred The Thin Red Line" Why? I don't really know. I guess maybe at times "Saving Private Ryan" dragged a bit,"The Thin Red Line" didn't. Which might be an odd thing to say when even those who posted positive reviews on it would probably say it was the slower of the two films. The sequence in "Saving Private Ryan" which in memory seems to be to have been draggy was when they were in a deserted building or something. It's so long since I saw the movie, I forget. Maybe what I need to do is get them both out on video or Dvd, and watch them straight after one another. In answer to the guy with the VideoHound guide. I guess people compare the movies because they came out around the same time, and they're both war films. I'm sure people did the same when "The Deer Hunter" and "Apocalypse Now" came out. I preferred " "The Deer Hunter" Now to side with those who didn't like the movie. I liked "Con Air" and "The Rock" "The Big Red One" is an excellent war movie too. Might I also recommend the following. "La Grande Illusion" "All Quiet On The Western Front" "From Here To Eternity" "The Big Parade" "The Story of GI Joe" "Patton:Lust For Glory"