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The circumstances around Terence Malick's The Thin Red Line are sometimes more talked about than the film itself. The reclusive director had made a big splash in the Seventies, but there followed two decades of silence. When he finally reappeared in 1998 to direct this adaptation of James Jones's novel about the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II, many actors were desperate to work with him and he was able to gather a large ensemble cast. He shot over five hours of footage but had to cut it down to three, leaving out many actors entirely from the finished version. The Thin Red Line tells of the American battle against Japanese forces on the island from the landing on its beach to the time the initial troops are relieved and sail off for some new, unknown deployment. But it actually begins shortly before this when Private Witt (Jim Caviezel), who has been AWOL and living with the local Melanesian people on a nearby island, is discovered by a patrol and brought in before his sargeant. The battle itself involves the men of C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division: besides Caviezel as Witt, major roles are played by Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, Adrien Brody and Ben Chaplin. Elias Koteas is Capt. Staros, who tries to look out for his men, while a hyperbolic Nick Nolte plays their commander who sees the infantry as nothing but cannon fodder to wrecklessly throw at the Japanese. For most of its 3-hour length, the men are torn apart by Japanese machine gun fire as they try to take a hill, but the enemy is never directly seen. Between scenes of great violence, there are portentous voiceovers by various characters as they meditate on what war says about the larger human drama. Eventually US forces are able to overcome Japanese positions, and the Japanese side of the offensive is depicted with more fairness and equanimity than in most American films on the Pacific Theatre of the war. While the realistic depiction of battle might touch viewers -- and its hard to knock any World War II film since they spur one to read more about this crucial event in history, this is not a great film. It has obviously been cut heavily from its original length. John C. Reilly appears several times at the centre of shots, clearly meant to be a major character, but most of his scenes and all of his back story were cut. The philosophic voiceovers come across as pretentious instead of insightful. Furthermore, I find this a very "Hollywood" film, with the acting often exaggerated. Woody Harrelson doesn't play a WWII grunt, he plays Woody Harrelson. George Clooney appears at the end and all realism goes out the window: there's no way this suave, handsome leading man has been fighting a war for some time now. Hans Zimmer's musical score too obviously pulls the audience towards prescribed emotions.
As war movies go, this one sucks. I'm pretty sure (although I didn't read it, that the novel (and maybe original screenplay) must have been fantastic, but Terrence Malick really bungled this: no clear vision, no character investment, a ridiculous amount of stupid jump cuts. I was willing to quit 40% into the film but my wife wanted to see the rest (as almost kind of a challenge to see if she could spot another of the many famous that wanted to work with him (and probably regretted it later).
Yeah, this is pretentious. And what makes it worse is that in all of it's art house pomp, it doesn't come across so much as anti-war as it does anti- stopping the Japanese and Germans from their genocidal bid for world domination. It was like they were saying that they are devoutly on the left... so much so that they support the axis powers if only because the alternative is the United States and Democracy and that is somehow more... fascist(?). I don't know, the film suffers from schizophrenia and the message gets lost when you realize that it's a World War II story and not a Vietnam story and that it is kind of taking the wrong side of WWII in it's effort to call America a fascist nation. But, you get pointless meandering diatribes and A-list actors in a horrible movie. The good news is that it looks pretty... but I don't think the final product is what the writer of this and From Here to Eternity had in mind.
This is a captivating and stunningly photographed depiction of the horrors of jungle warfare. Jim Caviezel is "Witt" - apprehended from some unofficial leave by his Sergeant "Welsh" (Sean Penn) and is interned aboard a troop ship pending court-martial. All of that due process is soon abandoned as their squad is assigned to take an important hill position from an entrenched Japanese force on Guadalcanal. It is a very untypical film, this - whilst there is certainly plenty of action, pyrotechnics, bullets (and limbs) flying all round, this is a much more cerebral look at the impact of war. The claustrophobia - even in the open air - of people who neither lived nor slept in peace or safety for weeks on end; their weariness and exhaustion, their dedication, bravery and - it has to be said, moments of fear and doubt is presented to us using some strong and potent characterisations. Even the moments of victory are tempered with sorrow and reality - the opposing forces are humanised to an extent that makes this whole thought-provoking story more poignant. Penn is good, as is their overbearing CO "Col. Tail" (Nick Nolte) and a strong ensemble cast of faces - famous and less so - sustain this well for much of the almost three hours it is on screen. What struck me most about the settings were just how inherently hostile they were to human beings at the best of times, and yet there we were fighting over them - palm tress and beautifully coloured birds!
A young intern is drafted and placed in the Army Medical Corps as a buck private and is none too happy about it. Injured, he is placed in the hospital where a Major comes by and explains how army doctors make important advances in medical science. The private is inspired and promises to make a good soldier. He is even more inspired when a nurse becomes his superior officer.
A propaganda film, made in the early months of World War II, dramatizing a new group of U.S. Army Air Force pilots receiving their wings from Lt. General H.H. Arnold. An off-screen narrator introduces four of them to us; we see them before the war, during flight training, and in their first assignments as pilots.
A hard-nosed, hard-living Marine gunnery sergeant clashes with his superiors and his ex-wife as he takes command of a spoiled recon platoon with a bad attitude.
A teenage orphan fights against the Red Army at the end of WWII and in the aftermath is 'adopted' by a Commissar. Years later he is sent to London during the Cold war to work for the KGB, where he questions his life.
During a trip to the mountains, a young teacher Maria starts an affair with Wiesław, who she meets by chance.
The true and infamous story of Australia's notorious criminal Mark 'Chopper' Read and his years of crime, interest in violence, drugs and prostitutes.
The Candyman, a murderous soul with a hook for a hand, is accidentally summoned to reality by a skeptic grad student researching the monster's myth.
Tough guy Thomas Beckett is an US soldier working in the Panamanian jungle. His job is to seek out rebels and remove them using his sniper skills. Beckett is notorious for losing his partners on such missions. This time he's accompanied by crack marksman Richard Miller.
A chronicle of the original Mercury astronauts in the formation of America's space program: Alan Shepherd, the first American in space; Gus Grissom, the benighted astronaut for whom nothing works out as planned; John Glenn, the straight-arrow 'boy scout' of the bunch who was the first American to orbit the earth; and the remaining pilots: Deke Slayton, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, and Gordon Cooper.
In 1931, three Aboriginal girls escape after being plucked from their homes to be trained as domestic staff, and set off on a trek across the Outback.
World War II vet Paul Sutton falls for a pregnant and unwed woman who persuades him - during their first encounter - to pose as her husband so she can face her family.