20 years after his last film, 1978's "Days of Heaven", Malick has returned with a World War II epic that is at once poetic, exhausting and intense. Yet, in a movie year dominated by praise of Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan", is there room for another two plus hour film about World War II?
Why not... Other that the obvious WWII connection, the two films could not be more different. Like "Private Ryan's" cerebral, more eloquent cousin, Malick's return brings with it that ever so rare blending of art film and wartime action epic. By melding scenes of horrific battles with breathtaking scenery, Malick has created a cinematic landscape that is at once beautiful and unnerving.
The erratic pacing and askew narrative of the film only lend to feeling of chaos and confusion. Moments of quiet reflection on nature and life are shattered suddenly by outbursts of violence. Characters are there one minute and gone the next. Malick attempts to get inside the head of the viewer, to not only show you on screen the horrific effects war on both man and nature, but to give you some sense of the disorder of the events depicted.
More "Apocalypse Now" than "Saving Private Ryan", "The Thin Red Line" is an unnerving cinematic masterpiece by one of the cinema's true enigmas. We can only hope Mr. Malick doesn't decide to stay away for another twenty years.
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