The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998)

I don’t know, maybe it was Malick trying to do too much after a 25 year layoff, but I think the end result of the Thin Red Line is an overly-long, sometimes brilliant and introspective war film…that just tries to cram too many ideas in. I think Malick’s goal and philosophy, as well as the execution of it, was so lofty and so ambitious that the poetic and philosophical narration (and sometimes dialogue) often drowned out the realism and the character development. It kind of reminded me of that library scene from Wings of Desire, where you go from person to person, hearing their thoughts. It’s a novel idea, the mutiple character narrative, but I would’ve liked to be able to identify with someone, but there’s just so many characters and ideas to sift through that it’s like a barrage. Not many of the characters felt real to me, with the sometimes brilliant yet often unrealistically lofty thoughts. That idea of not identifying with characters as real people isn’t helped much by the fact that Malick’s other movies cast relative unknowns for the time, while this is basically a Who’s Who of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces. So yeah, it’s has its moments of absolute brilliance and insight, but boy if it could’ve been less distant and more personal, and simpler with that narration, it could’ve been an absolute classic. But hey, it’s without a doubt the best WWII film from 1998, of course. 😉


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