The Thin Red Line

Director: Terrence Malick


Perhaps Malick’s most ambitious film, The Thin Red Line is adapted from James Jones’s novel about the experiences of the men of Charlie Company who are part of the American force charged with seizing the strategically important tropical island of Guadalcanal from the Japanese during World War 2. For the most part, Malick extracts his basic events and characters from Jones’s narrative: the disembarkation, landing and march inland of the Company, the protracted battle to take a hill stubbornly defended by Japanese troops, followed by a period of rest and reflection.
Like Jones’s novel, the film doesn’t have a central protagonist, but shifts from one character’s point of view to another. It comes as no surprise that Malick seizes on the interior monologues of Jones’s characters. Where the earlier films offer a single narrator, The Thin Red Line dispenses with narration altogether, replacing it with multiple subjective voiceovers. Malick’s poetic and philosophical language, which periodically turns all his soldiers into soul-searching poets, creates a zone of reflection that’s quite separate from issues of plot, character, and history.

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