Saturday, May 8

Review: The Thin Red Line

I don't think it would be appropriate to say I "like" war films, but the ones I've seen have mostly been good to great. I count classics like Saving Private Ryan and Full Metal Jacket among the greatest cinematic experiences in my life, but I've often been surprised by smaller, more original war movies like Waltz with Bashir and Jarhead. The Thin Red Line tries another approach, which works surprisingly well. Which makes it even sadder that it is ultimately killed by one fatal flaw.

The Thin Red Line tells the story of a WWII assault on an island in the Pacific. It's not too original, but that's not what makes a great war film. What does make one is the way the soldiers are portrayed. Saving Private Ryan shows their struggle with duty and personal sacrifice, Full Metal Jacket shows their slow descent into madness and Jarhead shows the boredom that comes with actually being in the army. The Thin Red Line has quite an original hook: instead of focusing on a single soldier or squad, it shows several soldiers. Their storylines don't cross, but the combination of their stand-alone personal stories creates a view on the war from within. It's like a mix of the Hollywood model with a single protagonist and several supporting characters and the crowd mentality of Battleship Potemkin. It's a little hard to explain, but it actually works really really well. You really get the feeling that you are amongst the soldiers, and that is pretty much the point of a film like this.

And while the beginning was a bit slow and unnecessary, I got completely sucked in when the film kicked it in gear. But this is were an otherwise pretty damn good movie make a fatal mistake: it overstays it's welcome. A lot. You see, because there is no real protagonist in the movie, there isn't really a story to speak of either. Stuff just happens. That works fine for a while. There is a sense of meaninglessness that gives lots of depth to the movie. But if you keep this up for almost three hours(!), things just get redundant. There isn't really any "finale" to look forward to, and at the end of the movie I was just plain bored.

And apparently I'm not the only one

I feel a bit guilty about condemning the movie like this, because it definitely has vision and a heart. And it gets damned by such a basic mistake: not stopping early enough. There are plenty of moments the movie could have stopped. Maybe if you just stop watching when you've had enough? I don't know. The movie is by no means awful, but it could have been so much more.


P.S. This movie could have learned a thing or two about cameos from The Hurt Locker, too. If it wasn't released earlier. Shut up.

This song is really pretty, and the video is really well done as well.

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