I may catch a lot flack from Malick fans for this, but since no one I know is a true apologist for the often times absent director I feel some critisism thrown his way is due. Terrence Malick fans are often times more loyal than your eccentric 'Star Wars' buff; however for different reasons. When you critique the George Lucas franchise his legions of devotees feel obligated to defend his work at all costs. Star Wars are at the core children's' films and trash talking them is to any fan a seeming attack on their childhood, or at least their adult side clinging to their adolescence.
Terrence Malick fans are worse. Not only are you critiquing their entertainment, but you're also stepping on their intellect. I believe devotees of his work feel they are somehow intellectually and aesthically superior to a general public who will wait in line for 'Big Momma's House 2'. While I do find elements of Malick's films refreshing I will not accept him as a god of cinema that so many claim him to be.
'The Thin Red Line' was a perfect example of directorial hubris. After a two decade long absence from cinema Malick helmed this project with much praise even before the movie came out. Fans of 'Badlands' were eagerly anticipating the next great film while looking forward to late night discussions on each and every detail in the movie.
The movie has moments of greatness, but it's a dull, preachy, and sometimes insulting experience. The film takes place in the Pacific theatre of WWII and chronicles small stories of numerous characters. Many stars lined up to be in the film if only for a few minutes. John Travolta, George Clooney, Nick Nolte, and Sean Penn just to name a few. I wonder if they thought they were going to be in the next truly great film.
After an interesting and exciting first half showing the American takeover of a Japanese base the movie kicks into low gear and slowly wallows into sheer boredom. Characters come and go after their stories are told, which are often times uninteresting. The theme of war being populated by thousands of souls who feel disconnected by the violence was beat into you for almost three hours and would never move on. Malick reminded me of a news analyst repeating themselves over and over again. The last half of the film churns out some of the best visuals I've ever seen, but a narrative that is disjointed and preachy. If this theme were of a religious nature people would turn in disgust. My buddy Kyle said the second half of the movie is nothing but a pretty screensaver.
The movie opened on the tails of Speilberg's Saving Private Ryan. Most movie goers preferred the Tom Hanks story of rescuing the last of the Ryan clan. The Thin Red Line though had it's very vocal minority praising the film as one of the best ever. The film was nominated for numerous Academy Awards, but rightfully won the Cinematography honor. Again it has some of the best photography I've ever seen if film. Too bad the story wasn't as compelling.
The Thin Red Line trailer:
"Pretty pictures and vague pondering do not a movie make!" - Edward Johnson-Ott