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Teen Movie Critic

Pat Canavan

March 19, 1999

Pat Canavan is a 16 year old boy from Mineola, Long Island, New York. He writes reviews for his school newspaper and recently had a review published in 21st Century, a magazine/newspaper for teens. He would love to someday write reviews for the New York Daily News or the New York Times. He is a junior at Mineola High School, hates the Backstreet Boys and conformism and loves the Yankees and movies. He hopes to attend NYU when he graduates high school.

The Thin Red Line

Terrence Malick's first film since 1978's "Days of Heaven" is certainly a visual triumph despite its disjointed plot and lack of character development. Cinematographer John Toll's bucolic imagery is one of the highlights of the film although sometimes the images have no metaphorical connection to the story.

The film opens with Pvt. Witt (Jim Caviezel), who has gone AWOL and is apparently living with the Melanesians of the beautiful Solomon Islands. The serene environment is interrupted by an American ship coming to pick him up. Upon Witt's return, the men begin to prepare to invade the island of Guadalcanal, held by the Japanese.

The gory battles and the objective to seize the island are not the crux of the movie. Poetic voice-overs by the actors are heard often and some times in excess, taking away from the plot, and making the viewer wonder where the movie is going. Sometimes it seems like the only insight we get into the characters is through poetry, like the leading man Pvt. Witt pondering "How did we lose the good that was given to us? Let it slip away. Scattered. Careless. What's keeping us from reaching out, touching the glory?"

Other soldiers include Sean Penn as a first sergeant contemplating his role in the madness and Elias Koteas as a captain who is worried about the lives of his men when he receives orders to commence a suicide mission. That order was given by Nick Nolte (Lt. Co. Toll) who unquestionably gives the best acting performance of the star-heavy cast.

Ben Chaplin's character (Pvt. Bell) also does much of the voice-over. His character is the most focused on next to Caveizel. Bell plays a married man with concern regarding how his long detachment from his wife will affect their relationship. He also thinks of her in the heat of the battle, a recurring theme in the movie of shifting from intense to placid. "Why should I be afraid to die? I belong to you. If I go first I'll wait for you on the other side of the dark waters. Be with me now."

Although the film's deep enchantment with nature and the idyllic poetry of the main characters engages the viewer, there are many instances where the disconnected meandering becomes too distracting and you begin to wonder where the plot went. And having a cast with a myriad of stars isn't always beneficial as well, the perfect example being George Clooney's all but one-minute of screen time at the end. The 2 hours and 50 minutes may seem too long, even with Malick editing the film down from a reported 5 hours.

Perhaps all that film lost in the editing room provided some needed development and story. Nonetheless, the film remains an epic treasure, and will probably be looked more highly upon in the future, without being under the tall shadow of Saving Pt. Ryan.

My Rating = Three Stars

Pat Canavan can be reached directly at Libbets16@aol.com.
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