Thin Red Line

Thin Red Line

4.0 27
Director: Terrence Malick

Cast: Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, James Caviezel


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The return of director Terrence Malick to feature filmmaking after a twenty year sabbatical, this World War II drama is an elegiac rumination on man's destruction of nature and himself, based on James Jones' semi-autobiographical novel, his follow-up to From Here to Eternity. James Caviezel stars as Private Witt, a deserter living in peace and harmony with the…  See more details below


The return of director Terrence Malick to feature filmmaking after a twenty year sabbatical, this World War II drama is an elegiac rumination on man's destruction of nature and himself, based on James Jones' semi-autobiographical novel, his follow-up to From Here to Eternity. James Caviezel stars as Private Witt, a deserter living in peace and harmony with the natives of a Pacific island paradise. Captured by the Navy, Witt is debriefed by a senior officer (Sean Penn) and returned to an active duty unit preparing for what will be the Battle of Guadalcanal. As Witt goes ashore in the company of his fellow soldiers, they meet diverse fates. Sergeant Keck (Woody Harrelson) is killed by an exploding grenade. Captain John Gaff (John Cusack) is an intelligent, sober leader facing the destruction of his command because his commanding officer Colonel Tall (Nick Nolte) is bucking for a general's star. Sergeant McCron (John Savage) loses his mind. Private Bell (Ben Chaplin) gets a "Dear John" letter from his beloved wife. However, as the U.S. troops advance up grassy slopes toward entrenched Japanese positions, it is Witt's voiced-over ruminations on life, death, and nature that are the real heart and soul of The Thin Red Line (1998). Adrien Brody appears as Private Fife, the major character of Jones' novel and the author's alter-ego, although Fife has been relegated to a minor supporting role by Malick's filmed adaptation.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
Reclusive director Terrence Malick's long-awaited return to filmmaking, The Thin Red Line is a beautifully rendered treatise on man and nature, revisiting World War II as few films have. Malick isn't interested in the traditional, linear rhythms of the James Jones novel on which the film is based; instead, he fashions an atypically unfocussed and philosophical war story, using the material as a blueprint. In the process, the director reveals the complex hopes and fears of men who are often portrayed as mere patriots in a fight they understand and accept. Some of the star cameos -- from John Travolta and George Clooney, among others -- may feel like just that: characters are intended to make transient but memorable appearances. Also uncharacteristic of war pictures is John Toll's lush cinematography, which offers the limitless beauty of the South Pacific as a startling backdrop to the folly of humanity. With The Thin Red Line, Malick creates an anti-war movie that is as intelligent and visually beautiful as it is unique.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
[Wide Screen]
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound]
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Special Features

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 Kelin; and Writer James Jones' 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; Melansian Chants; Original Theatrical Trailer; ; Plus: A booklet featuring an Essay by Film Critic David Sterritt and a 1963 reprint by James Jones

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Sean Penn First Sgt. Edward Welsh
Adrien Brody Cpl. Fife
James Caviezel Pvt. Witt
Ben Chaplin Pvt. Bell
George Clooney Capt. Charles Bosche
John Cusack Capt. John Gaff
Woody Harrelson Sgt. Keck
Elias Koteas Capt. James "Bugger" Staros
Jared Leto Second Lt. Whyte
Dash Mihok Pfc. Doll
Tim Blake Nelson Pvt. Tills
Nick Nolte Lt. Col. Gordon Tall
John C. Reilly Sgt. Storm
Larry Romano Pvt. Mazzi
John Savage Sgt. McCron
John Travolta Brig. Gen. Quintard
Arie Verveen Pfc. Dale
David Harrod Cpl. Queen
Thomas Jane Pvt. Ash
Polyn Leona Melanesian Woman with child
Miranda Otto Marty Bell
Matt Doran Private Coombs

Technical Credits
Terrence Malick Director,Screenwriter
Paul "Salty" Brincat Sound/Sound Designer
Skip Cosper Asst. Director
Dianne Crittenden Casting
Jack Fisk Production Designer
Robert Michael Geisler Producer
Ian Gracie Art Director
Grant Hill Producer
Richard Hobbs Set Decoration/Design
Leslie Jones Editor
Saar Klein Editor
Sheila Davis Lawrence Associate Producer
Susan Maybury Set Decoration/Design
John Roberdeau Producer
George Stevens Executive Producer
Michael Stevens Associate Producer
John Toll Cinematographer
Billy Weber Editor
Margot Wilson Costumes/Costume Designer
Hans Zimmer Score Composer

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4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best films i have ever seen. It is philosophically beautiful, visually stunning, and heartbreaking. This film is misunderstood sometimes but it is absolute masterpeice.
dygunraider More than 1 year ago
The thin red line is a film which doesn't really seem to know what it is. Is it a war film? partially, is it a philosophical drama that asks really deep pondering questions about life? partially. In this film the two are intermixed into one, and its kind of satisfying but also kind of irritating. This is one of those "Polorizers" you know the films that you either love or hate, and to be honest I'm pretty middle ground on this one, I mean it was irritating at times how Malick allows shots that seem like they should've ended to continue, but the questions the film raises about life and its plain Epic battle scenes were a real spectacle. It's just too bad this movie doesn't feel complete, its like half a movie, reportedly Malick's original cut was Five Hours long. To be honest I would've preferred the Five Hour cut despite the length, if it would make the film feel more complete. Your probably gonna go " Oh you just cant grasp upon the high brow philosophical themes this film presents...." But your wrong I can. I get this whole thing about how man is forced from Paradise to fight his enemies never to return, I understand the flippancy of humanity and the cruel things we do under certain circumstances. I too lay awake at night and imagine how the world would be without War or Death or Pain. But the fact is we dont live in a world like that. This film seems to be about Men who experience the extremes of Life, the High Peeks, and the Crushing Lows. And once the experience is ended I cant say that it taught me much that I didn't already know, not that its a bad movie, but its most certainly an Incomplete one, its like if you tore out the last 50 pages of a book that provide the "Denouemont"( not sure if I spelled that right) the purpose for the actions of the characters, this film seems to be without that, it has a clear beginning and end but it just doesn't make a point anymore than the Subliminal thoughts of several Military Men who have to kill people - CM
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Guest More than 1 year ago
A great movie. Philosophical, emotional, difficult, tough, complex, meaningful and meaningless. James Caviezel acted extremely well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have never seen a more real dynamic between characters. They were strangers, as we all really are, especially in war, I imagine. The sadness of life and strangers was captured so well. And I'm a happy guy, tho recognizing life's melancholy. Of course, the character Witt gave hope and faith, and it was done with such realness that it too felt of the human struggle. To me it is not a movie about war. Witt and Bell (Caviezal and Chaplin) were outstanding, and were entirely new to me. Tho, many of the cameo's work as well, including Woody Harrelson and John Cusack. It is the Realest Film I have seen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very intellectual look at the effects of war on real people. Don't buy it if you're looking for Saving Private Ryan-esque fluff.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is not a MOVIE. It is an artful well made film. Watch this film as a whole piece and then watch it again for its individual elements. This film has superb direction, editing, cinematography and music. The storyline does not follow a typical Hollywood plot, (thus eliciting the one star reviews from some viewers who don't quite understand what they are watching). The fine acting from the ensemble cast is meant to be another element that blends with the rest of the film as a whole. If you are looking to treat your eyes, ears and head to a different kind of film experience, watch this one. If not, save yourself the trouble and get ''Saving Private Ryan.''
Guest More than 1 year ago
Without going to Kantian philosophical lengths to explain my deep abiding love for this film, I will simply speak about the two shots which I found the most important in the film. The opening shot is a medium close-up on an crocodile as it slowly descends into a murky swamp. In context of the Edenic sequence afterwards with Private Witt, this sets up the entire movie. Man has gone from peaceful cohabitant with nature into baleful warrior, the evil lurking underneath the surface, separated by a thin line between the water level. Later on near the end of the film the troops capture a dead croc in Guadalcanal. Danger has turned to decay; Nature has crawled back into the earth to die. The most powerful moment for me, however, was the scene just before the battle is to begin, before any shot has been fired. Several of the soldiers are wordlessly marching toward the enemy, marching toward their death, and in a long wide shot a Melanesian native walks in the other direction, calmly, quietly, eventually passing the soldiers entirely. They look at the native with utter bewilderment. The pure insanity of juxtaposition between this pivotal moment in the lives of the soldiers and a native on a walk in the jungle brings war, humanity, progress, civilization, life, death, and spiritual meaning into question without saying a word. I defy Spielberg, or for that matter anyone, to approach such brilliance. This is a mediatation on the essential oneness of man, a sobering portrait about the inevitability of evil, and a maddening glimpse of the natural world we can no longer have for ourselves. Leave the star cameos out of it. Forget the unconventional narrative. Watch the first living art on celluloid in years without the bias of hundreds of films' worth of experience. And be ahead of the curve, because in twenty years this film will take its rightful place among the best ever.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Terrence Malick makes his re-entrance into the film world with what I considered to be one of the best films of all time. The Thin Red Line is an absolutley magnificent exploration into the strong and basic connections between all mankind. This film offers some of the most interesting and compelling dialog ever to grace the screen as well as the beloved kind of insightful character developement that has become such a scarcity in the film world today. With an amazing cast, including everyone from blockbuster stars to veteran actors, this film has all it takes to render a poetic and intellectually stimulating drama in the guise of a war film. On top of it's excellent make, few other films take the risk of sacrificing crowd pleasing mindlessness for artistic beauty as this one does. The Thin Red Line is a film to be cherished by those who recognize greatness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A mesmerizing look at World War II that does not hide the true nature of the "good fight." Shows what war is and what it does to people. Jim Caveizel's character blew me out of the water while I saw a lot of similitaries in the personality of Sean Penn and me. Quite incredible.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
There's two types of reviews every time I check out customer reviews for The Thin Red Line. They're either a 5(highest grade) or a 1(lowest grade). I just can't get over it. It's so funny for me to see that everywhere I look. To talk about how I feel about the movie though, is to say I was one who appreciates it, and loves it for being made at a time where quality has somehow left motion pictures, seeking instead visual effects, or whatever the pop culture wants to see. The people who don't like it, are almost usually simple in their taste, or closed minded to begin with. Meaning, they are not willing to accept something that tries to play differently from the average film that they watch on a weekend. The Thin Red Line is not a movie you just randomly select to pass the time. Anyone who just wants to pass the time, should stay as far away from this movie as possible. This film talks about very deep subjects, and involves poetry and emotion unlike any other film ever made. It has outstanding acting by an ensemble cast, which isn't meant to glorify the actors, but just to contribute to the ideas and emotions this movie trys to convey. The directing is suberb, and the cinematography is the best I've ever seen. The people that hate this movie should honestly take the time to read the reviews of people who love it. They would be simply amazed at how much people are able pull out of The Thin Red Line. Their jaws would drop with all the messages, meanings, emotions, and other compliments that people are able to have about it. To put it simply, never before has a film evoked so much emotion and enthusiasm from people who love it or hate it. I think the intention of this film, was to show us something we've never seen before, and feel something we never really could. This is a beautiful movie, that is a masterpiece, and will remain one until the end of time. I just wish that some people will go to watch a movie, not cheering for blood and goar, or something deeply rich in plots and subplots or any other type of twisting and turning of a story, or anything at all to do with pop culture. I hope people will not bash great film-making, because it's too boring, or they would rather see things explode or jokes being told endlessly. If something that is good becomes ugly in your eyes, then it probably just went over your head, and you're too stubborn to realize that maybe your vision of a perfect movie, isn't the only vision that's out there.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The music was annoying. The dialogue was so difficult to hear and understand at times that I am glad I wasn't watching it in the theatre, I would have walked out in the first 20 minutes. I had to use the English subtitles to understand what was said for a good portion of the film. I can't believe I watched the whole thing. I tried to care about the characters, but couldn't. Maybe the book allows you to know them. This movie did not.
Guest More than 1 year ago
No change from the usual Hollywood denigration of the military. Movie depicts officer (Nolte) sacrificing common sense and his soldiers lives to seek glory. While this type of behavior was and is the exception in the military, on the silver screen it is standard fair. Malick continues Hollywood¿s anti-war Vietnam theme, which seems totally out of place in this WWII flick. I agree with the other critic in saying this movie doesn¿t deserve even a single star.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you want a Picture of the fighting soldiers mind buy this movie, but if you want a realistic war movie you may want to spend your money on another movie. There are alot of flaws in this movie haveing to do with following the plot behind the book. One is that the movie covers an Anti-War character named Pvt. Witt who does not play a key role in the book until close to the end of it, another flaw is that the movie does not show any of the men of the heavy weapons platoon, nor does the movie show any thing relating to the second set of hills called the "boiled Shrimp", also the movie shows the whole company being cut off in the jungle but in the book it was only a squad and every one died. All in all the movie was for portraying the normal soldiers psyche in times of war, but the movie was hardly any thing like the book and nothing like the real battle for Guadalcanal.