The Thin Red Line

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After two decades of silence following the release of his 1978 masterpiece Days of Heaven, Terrence Malick returned to filmmaking in a big way with this star-studded, epically produced adaptation of James Jones’ sprawling WWII novel. Forgoing both Jones’ intense, close-up view of the psychological toll taken on men under fire and the brutally intense combat realism of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (which was released the same year), Malick renders the battle for the island of Guadalcanal as a lyrical, Emersonian reflection on the interconnectedness of humanity and nature – rather than Jones’ “thin red line” between sanity and madness, Malick instead fashions a philosophical exploration of the line between life and death, being and non-being. Bringing his reflections to vivid life through a once-in-a-lifetime cast – including Nick Nolte as an obsessed, rough-hewn colonel, Sean Penn as a battle-weary sergeant, Elias Koteas as an empathetic lieutenant, Jim Caviezel as a dreamily philosophical Thoreau in fatigues and such other familiar faces as Woody Harrelson, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, John C. Reilly, John Travolta and George Clooney – Malick created one of the most mysterious, meditative and powerfully evocative of all American war films. (Dir. by Terrence Malick, 1998, USA, 170 mins., Rated R ) Digital