doaskdotell MOVIE REVIEW of The Thin Red Line, Enemy at the Gates


Title:  The Thin Red Line

Release Date:  1998

Nationality and Language: USA/Canada, English

Running time: 170 min

MPAA Rating: R

Distributor and Production Company: 20th Century Fox

Director; Writer: Terrence Mallick, novel by James Jobes

Producer: Robert Michael Geisler

Cast:   Adrien Brody. Nick Nolte, James Caviezel


Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site: military (gays?)

Movie Review; The Thin Red Line (1998); Dir: Terrence Malick; Rated: R; Panavision; 20th Century Fox (note: when will Fox make its Corporate brand Y2K compliant??); 9.0/10 (highly recommended for older teens and adults) 

            This film comes across as the WWII "companion" to Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. It deals with the Battle of Guadacanal in the Pacific War. Physically, the film is grander, since it is in wide-screen format and is more preoccupied with grand vistas; it is also more subtle, since it seems concerned with tracing the psychological vicissitudes of several characters. Much of the story is seen through the eyes of a free-spirited young Private Witt (played by James Caviezel) who gets sent to Guadacanal by his First Sergeant as a "disciplinary matter" in lieu of Courts Martial or Article 15. (Well, somebody threatened me with that in Basic). In the end, Witt, trying to extricate his troop, meets a calm but tragic end when surrounded by the enemy. In the meantime, there are many graphic episodes (War is hell, etc.). The most interesting concerns a Captain (Adrian Brody) who disobeys his Colonel's (Nick Nolte) order to send his men to their deaths (no outflanking, like in a chess King-and-Pawn ending). Later, Nolte transfers him out of combat, to JAG, where he can become a lawyer. There is the subtle suggestion that Nolte suspects he is gay, but he doesn't seem the least bit disturbed about that. He just doesn't want to be caught in the moral problem of preserving individual life in War. After all, war is war.


Lions Gate has teamed up with Paramount to produce Lions Gate’s biggest film ever (2001), with a bit of irony in the title.  An international British/French/German effort, it stars rising male icon Jude Law as the peasant sniper Zaitsev, opposed by German baron played by Ed Harris, with his two companions played by Joseph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz.  The director is Jean Jacques Annaud.  The openings shots from the 1942 battle of Stalingrad (there was a documentary film by this name in 1995) are as horrifying as any in Saving Private Ryan or Thin Red Line.   The war torn settings of WWII Stalingrad are so relentless as to convey the feeling of being on another planet, almost like Aliens or Quintet. The scribe played by Fiennes is ironically made up to look pretty much like writer Sebastian Junger, almost a metaphor on the power if the written word.  Here, communist society (like Fascist) adopts creative talents for state propaganda purposes.  Fiennes’s job is to build up Zaitsev as a hero so that the homeland defenders will resist. So in a collectivist communist “egalitarian” society of comrades we have individual heros.  Interesting paradox. The bond between the three major characters (as played by Law, Fiennes and Weisz, two male and one female) is intense and, staying just barely out of sexuality, seems to add to unit cohesion rather than disrupt it.  But Law’s performance of Zaitsev works because the character comes across as smart and rather pensive himself as well as agile in combat. In our country, he would have made the perfect service academy candidate.      



Related reviews: Latter days etc. Saving Private Ryan


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