Wednesday, 09 May, 2001
Movie Review: The Thin Red Line
If you haven't seen The Thin Red Line yet, cross it off your list. From the previews, I was expecting a war movie on par with Saving Private Ryan. You know, lots of battle action and edge-of-the-seat stuff. Instead, it's a 3-hour yawn fest filled with pseudo-philosophical mumbling about the evils of war. Long lingering shots of soldiers drawing their last breaths while the main character looks on and mumbles some bullshit about eternity. Even the caricatures are poorly done: John Travolta's General is made of cardboard, Nick Nolte's ambitious Lieutenant Colonel is too self-centered and ambitious, Woody Harrelson's Sergeant is just dumb, and Sean Penn's First Sergeant is, well, bad even for Sean Penn. Perhaps the most disturbing thing is the notion that these were not supposed to be caricatures.
The movie suffers from a very bad case of trying to take itself seriously. Gah. And I thought My Dog Skip was bad.
The movie is based on James Jones' book of the same name, written in 1962. By all accounts, the book is excellent, although whenever I read reviews that say things like "This is more than a classic of combat fiction; it is one of the most significant explorations of male identity in American literature, establishing Jones as a novelist of the caliber of Herman Melville and Stephen Crane," I shy away. In my experience, critics like novels that are written for their rarefied tastes, most of which I don't share. In any case, the movie certainly didn't come across as a "significant exploration" of anything, least of all "male identity."
While I'm ranting...What is it with movies that spend millions of dollars on special effects in order to achieve "realism," but then totally forget about simple things like regulation haircuts? Here we are supposed to be in WWII, and most of the characters' hair would have qualified them as hippies to most of rural America in the 1970's. What's the deal? Do actors demand more money if they have to get their hair cut? Excuse me, Mr. Director (or producer, or casting agent, or whoever is in charge of this), but if you want to engage me in your fantasy, please make the simple things resemble reality. Otherwise I'm not going to swallow whatever other crap you're trying to shove down my throat.