Daily Archives: December 21, 1998

The Thin Red Line

There’s less sense of period here and more feeling for terrain than in any other World War II movie that comes to mind. Terrence Malick’s strongest suits in his two previous features, Badlands (1973) and Days of Heaven (1978)a painterly sense of composition and a bold and original use of offscreen narrationare enhanced here, first by a successful wedding of ecology and narrative (which never quite happened in Days of Heaven) and second by the notion of a collective hero, which permits the internal monologues of many characters in turn. I haven’t read the James Jones novel this is based on, which some feel is his best, but Malick clearly is distancing the material philosophically and poetically, muting the drama periodically and turning it into reverie. This may have its occasional dull stretches, but in contrast to Saving Private Ryan it’s the work of a grown-up with something to say about the meaning and consequences of war. The fine cast includes Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel, Ben Chaplin, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Elias Koteas, Nick Nolte, John C. Reilly, and, in tiny parts, John Travolta and George Clooney. 170 min. (JR) Read more


My idea of hell is to be stuck in a David Rabe play, but this stagy adaptation of one that’s especially repulsive, glib, and misogynist (1998)about pals adrift in the world of Hollywood hype, and running a full two hoursis made minimally bearable by its all-star cast: Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Garry Shandling, Meg Ryan, Robin Wright Penn, and Anna Paquin. The endless male-bonding dialogues are directed (by Anthony Drazan) as if the woman trashing were good clean fun. At least Spacey has the wit to suggest the homoeroticism that hovers over the proceedings; everyone else seems bent on denying it. (JR) Read more