The Thin Red Line - Criterion Collection
After directing two of the most extraordinary movies of the 1970s, Badlands and Days of Heaven, American artist Terrence Malick disappeared from the film world for twenty years, only to resurface in 1998 with this visionary adaptation of James Jones's 1962 novel about the World War II battle for Guadalcanal. A big-budget, spectacularly mounted epic, The Thin Red Line is also one of the most deeply philosophical films ever released by a major Hollywood studio, a thought-provoking meditation on man, nature, and violence. Featuring a cast of contemporary cinema's finest actorsSean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas, and Woody Harrelson among themThe Thin Red Line is a kaleidoscopic evocation of the experience of combat that ranks as one of the greatest war films ever produced.
This is my first experience with The Thin Red Line and I must to admit to being completely blown away by it. Far from what would typify a traditional war film it exposes about the conventional and unconventional as it takes viewers on a compelling journey as seen through the eyes of a group of soldiers in C-Company during World War II's battle of the Guadalcanal. Based on the novel by James Jones and adapted by writer/director Terrence Malick the narrative's focus is purposefully blurred and presented in a sort of metaphysical derivative based on the war and more specifically on the American soldiers tasked with taking a fortified Japanese position. We see these men not only as vehicles of war but as fallible individuals, some at their best, some at their worst and some a little bit of both but all undeniably human. We get to see them from a perspective that examines their humanity as they struggle not only for survival but for their souls in the face of unimaginable circumstances. The thin red line came out the same year as Saving Private Ryan. That may be the reason I never got around to seeing it although I had heard positive things about it. A very different film, this is a mind numbing depiction of war that features a superlative cast of talent that includes; Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, Adrian Brody, Elias Koteas, Ben Chaplin, Nick Nolte, John Savage, Woody Harrelson, Jared Leto, John C. Reilly, John Cusak, and Larry Romano. The Thin Red Line runs the gamut from battle eclipsed momentum to slowly churned drama which serves to tangibly depict the plight of these men and the visually glaring contrast of the calmly provocative setting in which it takes place. In the hands of writer/director Terrence Malik and cinematographer John Toll this filmmaking of the highest order that simply isn't to be missed.
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 this high definition transfer was supervised by Terrence Malik and John Toll. The result is a reference quality high definition video presentation that features resplendent colors and deep, image penetrating resolution. Images boast transparent imagery, with defining sharpness that highlights fine object detail. The sweeping pans and vista views of the tropical landscapes offer three dimensional depth, lucid visual acuity and an almost tangible reach out and touch perspective. Contrast is spot on and blacks appear deep without compromise to fidelity which provides dark scenes with excellent depth of field and noticeable gradational highlights. Colors are rich and vibrant, with deep, beautifully rendered primaries that stand out but appear natural and tonally delineated. The video has a filmic and light veneer of grain that perfectly suits the source material.
The surround soundtrack was re-mastered at 24 bit from the original 6-track magnetic audio source. The DTS-HD multi-channel surround mix is superb. The soundtrack runs the gamut between subtle passages of spoken dialogue and soft music to thunderous, dynamically charged sequences that deliver opulent surround sound. Dialogue rendering is sublime. Detail is first rate which brings out the finely articulated nuance of background elements within the mix. Dynamics are demonstrative as the aggressive nature and strength of the sounds of war resonate with superior authority and enriching bass response. Hans Zimmer's lavish music score is carefully integrated into the sound design and is wonderfully detailed, acoustically transparent and three dimensional. Surround use is prevalent and achieves a high level of envelopment that is appreciably involving. From the gentle effects of falling rain or blowing wind to the familiar snarl of WWII airplanes swirling overhead, sounds are seamlessly blended and create a stable and detail rich sound field. Terrence Malik recommends that this audio presentation be played back loudly and I couldn't agree more. This is among the best audio/video presentations I have the pleasure of experiencing in my theater room.
New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Terrence Malick and cinematographer John Toll (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
New audio commentary by Toll, production designer Jack Fisk, and producer Grant Hill
Interviews with several of the film's actors, including Kirk Acevedo, Jim Caviezel, Thomas Jane, Elias Koteas, Dash Mihok, and Sean Penn; composer Hans Zimmer; editors Billy Weber, Leslie Jones, and Saar Klein; and writer James Jones's daughter Kaylie Jones
New interview with casting director Dianne Crittenden, featuring archival audition footage
Fourteen minutes of outtakes from the film
World War II newsreels from Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands
Original theatrical trailer
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt and a 1963 reprint by James Jones