THE THIN RED LINE, 1998
Starring: Nick Nolte, James Caviezel, Sean Penn, Elias Koteas, Ben Chaplin, Dash Mihok, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Jared Leto, John Travolta, George Clooney
The young soldiers of the Army Rifle C Company are ordered to relieve the marines in the battle for Guadalcanal during World War II. Pinned down and being fired upon by the seemingly unstoppable Japanese forces, the troops form emotional bonds with one another as they fight for their lives and lives of their fellow soldier. REVIEW:
In one of the longest war movies I've ever sat through, “The Thin Red Line” shows that was isn't just gritty and bloody massacre with explosions and guns... it's also about politics. Even the lowly gunmen are forced to fight suicide missions and losing battles in the name of politics. Makes me kind of glad that I was too fat to join the military!
Private Witt has gone AWOL from the military and is hiding out on the island of Melanisia, where he's been living with the local tribe. A U.S. Navy ship comes to the island and Private Witt is taken under arrest at the order of Seargant Welsh. The two have opposing viewpoints of the war and the military in general, and Witt is relieved of his rank and in the coming mission is given the assignment of being a stretcher bearer.
The troops on board the Navy ship are Army Riflemen belonging to C Company. They are given orders to invade the island of Guadalcanal to relieve the marines who've been fighting on the island, and to put an end to the Japanese stronghold here. It's expected that they'll be swatted away right from the start, but to their surprise they land on a deserted beach unopposed. They head inland.
Once the troops arrive at Hill 210, they are immediately under siege by the Japanese forces who've made a bunker at the top of the hill with machine guns. The U.S. Army gets mowed down by machine gun fire and it quickly becomes clear they need to change tactics. When the commanding officer, Captain Staros, tries to inform his superior, Colonel Tall, about the situation, he is ordered to take every man he has and make a full frontal assault on the bunker to take it by force with numbers. Staros refuses to do so as it's clear that the Japanese machine guns make the hill impenetrable. His plan is to do recon and flank the bunker if possible. The two officers arrive at a stalemate, until Tall decides to come to the front in person to see if the situation really is as dire as he's being told. Once he's gotten there, the fighting has died down a bit and he won't believe how bad it really was, but agrees to let a small scout party flank the hill to do recon on exactly what they're up against.
Eventually, they are able to take the bunker and a nearby military village before being sent on yet another mission on the island in an attempt to wipe the Japanese presence here out. A new scouting party (including Witt who's been allowed to rejoin the fight) heads out and discovers that their forces are severely outnumbered by guerrilla fighters.
“The Thin Red Line” has some moments when it's a great, action packed war film that has me on the edge of my seat rooting for the C Company and feeling their sorrow at being mowed down. At other times, it feels like it's dragging on and on (at almost a 3 hour run time) with scenes that have nothing to do with the movie (such as flashbacks to the soldiers' home lives). I spent the entire movie on the fence on whether or not I was interested in movie and what was happening in it. In the end, I decided I was still completely indifferent.The acting in this film is great. It had a wonderful cast who all worked well together as an ensemble. However, with as many men as there were in this film and as many as the director tried to get you to care about, I often found myself trying to remember who each person was again and where there place was in this whole thing (and the flashbacks to home life, while intended to make you feel for the characters, only distracted and confused me even more). So while the acting was good and heartfelt, I spent most of the movie trying to recall what each actor had done earlier in the film.
The special effects and editing during the fighting sequences were superb. Definitely on par with movies like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Apocolypse Now”. But again, the flashbacks being cut in felt useless to me and did more harm than good to the movie (in fact, when the first flashback happened, I was taken completely out of the moment of the scene that was going on as I tried to figure out why this flashback had any relevance to the rest of the movie. My final verdict is that they had NO relevance to the movie).
So when asked if “The Thin Red Line” was a good war movie or a bad war movie, my answer will have to be a resounding “Meh.”
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