TheCloser79’s review published on Letterboxd:
"War does not make people nobler - it turns them into dogs, poisons the soul."
In his film "The Thin Red Line", Malick recounts the American conquest of the Pacific island of Guadalcanal in 1942, based on the book by James Jones. From the mass of figures, the viewer especially accompanies the thoughtful Private Witt, played by James Caviezel, who had illegally moved away from the troupe to get to know the natives.
There are many films about World War II, with the focus primarily on events in Europe and not on the location of the Pacific - apart from Pearl Harbor. As is well known, "The Thin Red Line" started almost simultaneously with Spielberg's Normandy war epic "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998, but could not compete with its marketing machinery and budget (the film does not have to hide from the stars though).
Malick chooses a completely different, completely unconventional way of dealing with the war than "Saving Private Ryan". There are also scenes in which soldiers despair, find a cruel death or fear, but the way they are staged is completely different.
The director puts nature and its power of life and regeneration at the center of the film. Cameraman John Toll simply captures beautiful nature shots that can get goosebumps. His camera hovers almost weightlessly over the grasslands of the island, showing the beauty but also the impenetrability of the jungle and the play of light from the sun.
The war rages in between.
In "The Thin Red Line" the soldiers are primarily people who want to live. Orders are questioned, deserting means living, the men are afraid and that is a problem for them.
The film demands a lot from the viewer. There are passages that are dominated by long shots of nature, dialog-heavy and calm courses and then war again and again.
"The Thin Red Line" then also offers impressive fights that are brilliantly filmed and in which the sound engineers were masterfully at work. Perhaps the most important sequence here is to storm the Japanese camp. Malick shows in quick cuts the death in fast motion, feeling with the characters like in other war stripes is not possible, it is only about killing and surviving.
The film manages to make the war deterrent and at the same time emphasize the beauty of life, found in nature and among the inhabitants of the islands. It is remarkable that Witt is welcome on his first visit to this paradise and lives as a member of the tribe, but later - drawn and also changed by the war - no longer finds acceptance.
Malick shows what war makes with people, especially when they wage it in such a life-affirming world. An absolutely unique masterpiece in my eyes, which through its unconventional visual language and this meditative approach to killing and being killed in the message even surpasses "Paths to Fame" and "Full Metal Jacket".