The Thin Red Line (1998) – What’s This War in the Heart of Nature?

“The Thin Red Line” is like poetry directly speaks to nature. Since “Apocalypse Now” as the most horrific war films all time, this takes a variety of perspectives from various people. It didn’t focus too much on the war, doesn’t concern anything which you really stick with. It’s not about how you can see in war movies in general.

As Jim Caviezel looked around and spoke to himself: “what is this war at the heart of nature?” The film is more of ambiguity about a war in question. It takes various points of view from those who participated in the war both the enemies and allied. So, this is “The Thin Red Line” which got seven Oscar nominations with 40 other nominations and 20 other wins.

“The Thin Red Line” at first wasn’t so obvious what the film actually told. In fact, from the beginning to the end, it only gave various kinds of questions besides the war itself. It’s not about how it impacts to all. It talks more about nature and the environment around it. As if talking to people who participated in the war itself. As a battle at Guadalcanal as its background, Jim Caviezel as Private Witt is in a tropical area local tribes inhabit. He forced to plunge back into the battlefield by Sean Penn as 1st Sergeant Welsh.

“The Thin Red Line” covered all of its characters to everyone. It’s not about Private Witt, not about Sergeant Welsh, but it’s more to everyone. The narrator’s voices speak in the form of a poem. They came from the character’s deepest conscience. When each character changes transition or dies in the war, some of them narrate about things that connect with war. The characters in here actually have various views in their circumstance in the war, even the Japanese are also noteworthy. This film seems to see a war with something so meaningless. Additionally, they sharing deep questions about the philosophy. They talk about what the meaning of life, nature, and for what you have to die.

One thing to note in “The Thin Red Line” is this isn’t the type of war action movie. The duration even almost three hours which was originally six hours movie. The atmosphere runs very slowly but peacefully. You feel like this isn’t a kind of war movie you want to enjoy. The film is, in fact, a war movie. Yet, this film seems to open everything from beginning to end. It’s so smoothly, peacefully, and slowly. The battle scene is less or less focused too.

Not much can be told except war is just the part of the background. What I love about this movie it takes any kind of ideology from the characters themselves. Questions wrote in the form of poetry such as: who killed us? Why did they steal anything in the world? Who did that? Is nature being the target? Is there darkness within each of us? Who mocked us? You have something like the definition and meaning of war according to various characters. War turns them into dogs, poisons our soul, can put it out, and it’s nothing.

This film doesn’t show heroism and not focuses on just one character. This movie shows in solid, flat, and anti-climatic. The scene when they won the war and cornered the Japanese. It doesn’t execute as if they got and proud of it. What we got was a sense of regret and the fear on the opposite. There was a deep regret would have done that. They can’t go home anymore, many people die and others. This is the first time I’ve seen the first work by Terrence Malick. He really loves a nature which becomes a trademark in this movie. The first opening scene we look at a crocodile crawls into the swamps. At the end of the film, the soldiers capture that crocodile.

A village where Witt lived there began in a peaceful way. The people were kind and calm until entering the final phase of the film. The village was no longer a village he knew. People are afraid of Witt, skulls become a miniature in various houses and others. The dying bird when the war goes was a symbol of war. It wasn’t just people who participated in the war itself but the targets were animals and nature. There is some little segment where there is one character. He flashbacks about how his memories are with his wife and wait for him to return. It adds some symbolism about the ideology of war whether people participate or not.

The movie feels like a documentary featuring various kinds of nature where Terrence Malick also loves grass. The view in the form of sunshine directly from above surrounded by trees. Hills when the soldiers are climbing, beach viewers, landowners, and others. Terrence Malick also used this technique. It was originally a natural landscape which was so beautiful. Finally, it was destroyed by the war itself. A resulted from the war.

He told the story and poem through the contents of the mind of its various characters. Malick prefers to stick with that. Therefore, this seems not a war movie you can enjoy from beginning to end. The rest of the film is random. The plot seems flat. Unlike war films in general, there are no transitions between characters. I also find it difficult to recognize each character yet I also know how this film works.

Hans Zimmer’s score in this movie is like chanting as if nature is speaking. This isn’t like Hans Zimmer from Christopher Nolan’s movies. The case in this film is so different. It pulls you to hear the thoughts that are in the characters themselves. It was brought with poetic, educated, and philosophic exhortations. The voice is just the same. It was conveyed with various kinds of characters who participated in the war itself. This could be the voice of us as the audience. It directly addressed to the audience rather than existing characters.

The actor is indeed the most recognizing actors. But, the actors in here appear with various characteristics. Especially Jim Caviezel, which is the major point of view of the film itself. George Clooney, John Travolta, and John Cusack only appear briefly. We got Kirk Acevedo, Adrien Brody, Ben Chaplin, Simon Billig, Woody Harrelson, Sean Penn, Elias Koteas, Nick Nolte and all. Malick doesn’t seem to be focused on how this film is seen as one of the most enjoyable. It’s not an anti-war movie or the best war movies ever. But, he seems to have a clear mission and vision as to what the film was made of.

“The Thin Red Line” is a metaphor of you got some scar, cured for days, but you skinned it again. This film is like breaking a wound itself. You’re left at the theater in a very confusing situation what you’ve actually watched. So many questions stuck in your head and you still can’t answer it until now. A movie like this is actually not only from the character itself or the sound of poetry with various philosophies. It’s about you’re still trapped in such a case. You can’t find the right answer.

War is terrible. War doesn’t solve anything and doesn’t separate anything. Everything is in vain. Anything you can get what is meant by the war is actually real. Malick, on the other hand, makes it so complicated not just those questions. It expanded from the cup. Various characteristics are so diverse. It takes many opinions from these characters. Hans Zimmer’s score directly speaks to us, to a character, and to nature. “The Thin Red Line” isn’t Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” which is often said as the best war movie ever. Yet, the most overrated one. This film leaves you with many impressions which mix your feelings.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

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