Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Thin Red Line - Review # 5


Spine # 536
Available on DVD & Blu-ray
Special Features
  • 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
  • Melanesian chants
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic David Sterritt and a 1963 reprint by James Jones 
  • New cover by Neil Kellerhouse
Review

Director Terrence Malick recommends that The Thin Red Line be played loud.

Those were the words that greeted me from the Blu-ray menu when I hit "play" and I can understand why, war is not quiet, it is loud, it is in your face, it is all around you, it gives you no peace.  All these words can be used to describe this film.

The opening part of the film is idyllic, you may think that is a contradiction to my comment above, but still, it is not quiet.  It is more loud in its sense of visual beauty, the laughter of the children as they play, swimming in the sea, the peacefulness of the village.  Throughout the film we have several character speak voice-over narration, a commentary of their thoughts.  We hear the character of Pvt Witt (Jim Caviezel) talk about death and immortality, trying to make sense of all the chaos he has experienced.

It seems that the experiences were a little too much as soon we come to realise that Pvt Witt and another character are actually AWOL from the Army.  They are found and returned to their Company.  We are here introduced to the rest of the cast.  The ship is heading towards the battle of Guadalcanal. The top brass survey the deck, talking about the importance of taking the Guadalcanal, how it will give control of a vital route through the Pacific.  Their language is almost too simple, we do this, we do that, job done.  Do they realise people will die?  Or is it easier for them to not think about that side of the plan?

Below deck, in the claustrophobic living quarters, there are plenty of people thinking about dying.  All these men can do is wait until they reach their destination and that means plenty of time to think.  Some lounge around on their bunks, reading, writing, thinking.  Others talk endlessly about the event ahead, will they die? Another man even steals another's pistol as a souvenir.  Throughout the film we hear voice-over narration from various characters, all trying to deal with the situation in their own way.  For some the battle is not only the enemy in front of them but also in the mind.  The mundane waiting is soon broken by the siren blaring out, it is time to deploy ashore.

Again, we are taken to a location of breathtaking beauty, a sandy beach, lush green grass and clear sky.  The beauty soon turns to horror as two dead soldiers are found, or I should say, bits of them.  There is soon more bloodshed as the battle commences.  Its bloody, its violent and its realife.  Men are blow up, shot and some who survive are almost shellshocked by the events.  You see men being brave whilst they draw their final breath, you see men to scared to even move.  These events are played over and over in the film as many battles are waged.  During a close combat fight when the Company raids the Japanese camp you see the tortured faces of the enemy, you have men screaming whilst running aimlessly, not attempting to defend themselves, people on their knees praying.  Are they praying for survival or death to take them from the madness?

Whilst this film is indeed harsh and bloody the overpowering force of nature is never far from the screen.  During a battle with bombs exploding and bullets flying through the air we see a butterfly, only for a few seconds but it is there, there to remind us that nature carries on.  Bats hang down from the trees above the soldiers, an owl sits, watching, a lizard lounges on a branch, birds are flying in the sky.  All examples of beauty versus horror on the island.

Another voice-over narration during the film tells us "Nature is cruel"  The only thing I see as cruel in this film is man, not only against his fellow man but against nature.  Destroying the landscape to build bunkers, littering the land with corpses and bullet casings as well as the black smoke from the warship engines billowing into the sky.  During the final scene Mother nature shows us that everything returns to the Earth.  The battles are over yet even after all the death and destruction, new life is born, here in the form of a plant, its shoot reaching up into the sky.   A symbol of the circle of life?

The Thin Red Line it is beautiful, it is savage and it is real.  Nearly 3 hours long but time is forgotten as you emerge yourself into the film.

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