Blu-Ray Review: The Thin Red Line

A soldier in the grass

While the end of World War II in Europe officially came on VE Day, 7 May 1945, fighting continued in the Pacific arena. Japan eventually surrendered to America at the beginning of September, but the conflict didn’t simply stop overnight in a war which encompasses much of the globe. There have been countless films about this period but none are quite like The Thin Red Line, which is a fictionalised story of the Battle of Mount Austen that digs deep into the psyche of US soldiers.

C Company is brought to the island of Guadalcanal as reinforcements and soon arrive at their destination, Hill 210. They discover that the Japanese have placed bunkers at the top and anyone trying to ascend it is mown down. This doesn’t deter the aging Lieutenant colonel Tall (Nick Nolte), who demands, over the radio, that the reluctant Captain Staros (Elias Koteas) takes the position.  He expects his orders to be implemented straight away.  

Featuring a cast which includes Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, John Cusack, Tim Blake Nelson, George Clooney, Adrien Brody and many more, The Thin Red Line is a classic war drama which centres on feelings as much as actions. Terrence Malick’s film is a thoughtful and empathetic treatise on the very nature of war. With an emotive soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and luscious cinematography from John Toll, it feels epic in every sense of the word. The action scenes are beautifully shot but it’s in the quieter and more thoughtful moments that The Thin Red Line finds its real strength.

Special edition features:

  • Restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Terrence
  • Malick and cinematographer John Toll (with DTS-HD Master Audio)
  • Audio commentary featuring Toll, production designer Jack Fisk, and
  • producer Grant Hill
  • Outtakes from the film
  • Video interviews with several of the film’s actors, including Jim Caviezel,
  • Elias Koteas, and Sean Penn; composer Hans Zimmer; editors Billy Weber,
  • Leslie Jones, and Saar Klein; and writer James Jones’s daughter Kaylie
  • Jones
  • Video interview with casting director Dianne Crittenden, featuring
  • original audition footage
  • World War II newsreels featuring footage from Guadalcanal
  • Original theatrical trailer

The Thin Red Line is released on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection on 22 November. 

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