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The Thin Red Line (The Criterion Collection)

3.6 out of 5 stars 1,202 customer reviews

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(Sep 28, 2010)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

After directing two of the most extraordinary movies of the 1970s, Badlands and Days of Heaven, American artist Terrence Malick disappeared from the film world for twenty years, only to resurface in 1998 with this visionary adaptation of James Jones’s 1962 novel about the World War II battle for Guadalcanal. A big-budget, spectacularly mounted epic, THE THIN RED LINE is also one of the most deeply philosophical films ever released by a major Hollywood studio, a thought-provoking meditation on man, nature, and violence. Featuring a cast of contemporary cinema’s finest actors—Sean Penn (Dead Man Walking, Milk), Nick Nolte (The Prince of Tides, Affliction), Elias Koteas (Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), and Woody Harrelson (Natural Born Killers, The People vs. Larry Flynt) among them—THE THIN RED LINE is a kaleidoscopic evocation of the experience of combat that ranks as one of cinema’s greatest war films.

Additional Features

The Criterion treatment of Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line has a raft of extras: recollections from members of the cast (including Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, and Thomas Jane), which leave the impression that nearly everybody on the film does a Terrence Malick imitation; a 20-minute piece on the casting process, with casting director Dianne Crittenden introducing fascinating audition tapes; a look at the process of editing Malick's enormous amount of raw footage (out of which came a movie considerably different from the script); 15 minutes of vintage newsreels about the Solomon Islands battles; and an eloquent 20-minute interview with Kaylie Jones, the daughter of James Jones, who recalls her father's complex feelings about war and some of the autobiographical incidents contained in his novel.

One of those incidents--the hand-to-hand killing of a Japanese soldier--was cut from the film but is included in the 15 minutes of outtakes here. Only 15 minutes? There must be hours more, but these few glimpses (including a scene with George Clooney and one abrupt moment with Mickey Rourke) will have to suffice for now. An audio commentary, with cinematographer John Toll, producer Grant Hill, and production designer Jack Fisk, is free-flowing and informative. Taken together, the special features paint a vivid portrait of Malick's searching approach, which depends on improvisation and chance as much as planning. --Robert Horton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, James Caviezel, George Clooney, John Cusack
  • Directors: Terrence Malick
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Special Edition, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: September 28, 2010
  • Run Time: 170 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,202 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003KGBIR0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,949 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Thin Red Line (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on June 19, 2001
Format: DVD
The same week I saw 'Saving Private Ryan', I saw 'The Thin Red Line'. I left the theater both times with the same reflective shock; silent for the drive home despite the questioning of my friends. In hindsight, I could have told you who would say what about these two films. 'Ryan' would attain wide commercial success, and 'Line' would be missed. Most, including anyone who reviews this film poorly, did not get it. This film is Video Poetry. In the same way that e.e. cummings would capitalize the letters R O U N and D through that wonderful poem about the round moon, the director laces the obvious bits of typical film (dialogue, acting) with constant thematic visual reinforcement. Man and nature are compared and contrasted. Just watch as the sun catches the blowing grasses in spectacular fashion before the field becomes a massacre. Our aims as a socitey are impeached. See the change in attitude between the native people and the formerly AWOL soldiers. There is an ugliness about it that you cannot help but feel. Something is intuitively wrong with everything going on, and the subtle suggestion of this fact is presented with difinitive dilligence. The sleeper of this film is the masterfully placed musical score- seamlessly woven through the fabric of tension and release- sometimes a backdrop, sometimes running thick over the dramatic action for reinforcement. Go buy the CDs- both are fantastic! I cannot believe that every soldier hazards the thoughts expressed in this film. Nor would I suppose it impossible that some in fact did. The war, however, is simply a device for the expression of some very valid points. If it makes you reconsider your preconceptions of what goes on in GI Joe's mind, all the better. If you are after an easily accessable night in front of the boob tube, go for Private Ryan. If you'd like something to think about for months to come, spend a few hours with The Thin Red Line.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I saw this movie at the theaters when it was first released in 1999, and have watched it several more times on DVD, and own a DVD version of my own. I'm writing only to bring some balance to the polarized reviews I've read on this website. People who compare "Saving Private Ryan" and "Thin Red Line" and conclude by praising one and panning the other (it doesn't even matter which) are clearly missing the point of BOTH movies. Malick's film is almost an allegory...a visual and sensual evocation of both primitive and profound human feelings. I doubt that it was ever Malick's purpose to deal with war per se, other than as a medium to expose the inner heart of man. When I have enjoyed watching "Thin Red Line" the most, I have watched with that expectation. If you're in the mood for bare-bones war, however, this film won't satisfy. "Saving Private Ryan", while certainly also portraying the human emotions involved with war (most brilliantly and realistically, fear), was more concerned with gritty realism. The cinematography contrasts between the two movies alone ought to tell the viewer what he is in for. Malick's film is almost surrealistic in its imagery- "Private Ryan" has the gritty realism of a documentary. Both methods have an undeniable effect.
For my money, however, "Private Ryan" is what most people look for in a war film. "Thin Red Line" certainly conveys the inner personal anguish, doubt, fear, and even savagery of its combatants, but it doesn't show the real, external face of war.
But please, folks, don't delude the readers with the idea that one of these two films is "better" than the other. They both have their respectful place in moviemaking about war.
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Format: DVD
"The Thin Red Line" had the severe bad luck of being released in the shadow of one of the most favored modern war films of all time, "Saving Private Ryan." Oscar buzz was all the rage for that film, which focused on the war in Europe as well as patriotism and courage. "The Thin Red Line" chooses to focus more on the human beings at war than the country or mission for which they are fighting. It dives deep into the subconscious of its characters, exposing their feelings in the face of battle and carnage. Though heavily stylized, director Terrence Malick knows where the movie is going, and takes it there in stride.
Spanning a running time of just short of three hours, we're taken on a journey to Guadalcanal, where American troops are landing on the sandy beaches only to encounter a foe that, for a while, seems unbeatable. Their mission: to take over an airstrip and give America an advantage in the Pacific War. It is here that the characters are established: First Sergeant Welsh (Sean Penn), whose only wish is to lose all feeling for the events he experiences; Lt. Colonel Tall (Nick Nolte), obsessed more with his image than with actual victory; Private Witt (Jim Caviezel), a quiet, almost spiritual soldier with a soft yet firm heart; and Private Bell (Ben Chaplin), whose memories of his wife are what fuel his drive to fulfill his mission so he may return home.
Like "Ryan," this film has intense images of graphic violence associated with war and battle. While Malick does not use the same technique as Speilberg, whose film is gritty and never without unsteady camera shots, his slow-motion captures, cut to the powerful score of Hans Zimmer, are just as moving and powerful.
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