Let us talk about a film that no one talks about – even if you dine and sleep in a circle where people are passionate about cinema, the name of The Thin Red Line will hardly ever come up. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that Saving Private Ryan was released less than six months before this one did and given the fact that both are war movies, the comparison between the two becomes inevitable, pressing even.
To review The Thin Red Line is to compare it with the other war movies. The film may lack in the subject matter of it all but it manages to compensate that with the affection and love the director (Terrence Malick) has for cinema. That is, in fact, one of the positive things about the movie and if you are into scenic paintings and well-shot scenes, then this one is a gem to behold.
Every single shot of The Thin Red Line can be put up on the wall and could even be sold as an individual painting. See, Steven Spielberg is a master of cinema, a storyteller like no other, someone who throttles on the screenplay and the script in hand, but Terrence is different, he loves his camera and what he can do with it if he is given the freedom, which he got here.
This is where the movie lacks. When Saving Private Ryan could make the audience connect with the soldiers and the characters, The Thin Red Line just ended up being a scenic painting.
Apocalypse Now is about Vietnam and what it was and Saving Private Ryan is all about the World War II, in fact, it is the World War. But The Thin Red Line is just a beautiful painting put on the canvas by a serious artist – you wonder what you are looking at and think what to make of it all.
There are scenes in the film where even the occasional moviegoer will feel the need of a dialogue. Too many walking characters and very little chance of any character development. Nick Nolte does a great job and is given the most screen time but both Sean Penn and Caviezel could have done better if it were not for so many flashbacks.
The Narration let the movie down – Confusing and Lacked Emotion
Another thing that makes Saving Ryan a better war movie option than The Thin Red Line is the quality of the narration. As I mentioned before, this one is not your simple war movie, it is poetic and so is the narration. There are almost 15 different narrators during the course of the film which makes it difficult to connect with the film at any level whatsoever.
Not to take anything away from the love that Terrence has for his movies and how he takes care of his projects, but in the end it is all about entertaining the audience and giving them what they are looking for – emotions, gore, gun fights, character development, war scenes, and most importantly, the reason why war never changes.
Saving Private Ryan thrive on its characters, the cast was so beautifully put together that it became the primary reason for the success it saw back on the turn of the millennium and exactly where The Red Line fell short. Even if it would’ve released a few months earlier than Ryan, the comparisons would have been made and would have definitely taken a chunk of meat from its success, regardless.
The Thin Red Line is undoubtedly a beautifully shot movie but one of the best war movies? Probably Not. Even if I sat and made the list of the best ones, this one would not even come in the top ten and that is all thanks to our beloved Saving Private Ryan, take it out of the scene and maybe, just maybe, this one could end up seeing the success it was rolled out to.