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The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red Line (1998): Not worth viewing.

Spoilers. Everything you need to know anyways so you don’t waste time trying to watch this garbage!

I know you all came here for a movie review on “The Thin Red Line” but I’m going to discuss the “Wheel of Time” miniseries for a moment (and yes it will all tie in).

Wheel of Time fans measure the quality of the eponymous Amazon miniseries by how many minutes of it they watched before walking away.

I clocked out at about 30 minutes and I heard one fan walked away in just 30 seconds! (And he is so lucky).

Anyone who knows anything about the Wheel of Time books is incredulous about how badly the morons on the Amazon team botched that adaptation.

And it looks like the adaptation for “The Thin Red Line” is equally dubious! As a full disclosure, I didn’t (and won’t) finish watching “The Thin Red Line” movie for similar reasons.

I may not be a World War II “historian,” but I know quite a bit about the battle of Guatacanal and World War II.

Back to “The Thin Red Line”

Maybe I should put in a spoiler warning, but after the treatment by the Director/Screenplay Writer Terrence Malick, there’s not much for me to spoil, as he’s apparently already done a good job of spoiling this story. That said, I’m going to describe what little I saw and why I have issues with this movie.

This movie starts with some loser hanging out on a Polynesian island going ‘native.’

Why am I watching this? I thought this was a War movie?!?!?!

Turns out this character is a deserter.

Worse, he gets picked up and returned to his unit!

Worse still, he apparently enlisted six years ago so if it’s 1942 that means he signed up in 1936?

And he’s been going MIA the entire duration of his Army career?!?

I personally know enough about how cash strapped the US Army was in the late 1930’s to realize that this kind of clown would have been fed his Big Chicken Dinner (Bad Conduct Discharge) by 1938 and booted back into the civilian sector to become a homeless bum riding the rails and pan handling for his dinner in the deep dark depression brought on by Herbert Hoover and exacerbated by FDR!

Why does this character exist? Why am I watching this loser? What’s with the “OMG, how am I’m going to handle my own death voice over?”

In real life there weren’t ANY nay sayers or detractors to the war in this band of patriots.

The people fighting in the Battle of Guadacanal were the crop of new recruits who had signed up on December 8th, 1941.

A draft dodging loser who would never have enlisted in 1936 should not be in this story. The US Army didn’t need people like this.

Mind you, I get that most Marines struggled with the prospect of facing their possible death as they approached the battle of Guadacanal on the lengthy trip over the Pacific, but the ‘poetry’ of the voice over is painful. And not in a good way that makes me want to identify with the character.

And that’s the worst bit! This is about an Army unit!

Guadacanal was conquered by Marines!

Sure there was one last hold out of Japanese soldiers on Guadacanal that an Army Battalion was brought in to finish off. But that skips all of the “hard fighting” that happened before. In context, that would be kind of like doing a movie on the Battle of Midway that started after the sinking of the Yorktown. (Sure a lot of stuff ‘happened’ and both fleets did quite a bit of maneuvering, but there wasn’t any combat after the Yorktown was sunk).

But I digress. There’s a last bastion of starving, ill supplied, suicidal Japs on the island who need to be exterminated, and our US Army Battalion has it’s work cut out for itself. The Japs didn’t surrender. So maybe there’s going to be something interesting to deal with, yeah?

A trip across the Pacific, however is in order and we’re briefly introduced to a handful of soldiers being bored on a transport ship: reading letters, one guy is playing a violin (okay) but one soldier announces that he’s getting himself a pistol! So he steals one off of some empty bunk.

Yeah. Bored still.

John Travolta and Nick Nolte have a conversation on the deck of the transport. It’s a confused series of monologues, with Nolte’s Voice Over demonstrating resentment over being overlooked for promotion, while Travolta gushes about his ‘early’ promotion as a General. I figured out Travolta was a General because his collar had a nice shiny star.

Nolte’s collar points out that he’s an aging Major. (IMDB credits claim that Notle’s character was actually a light Colonel. But why is he wearing a Major’s Oak Leaf)?

And how is it that Travolta’s character doesn’t know that Nolte’s character has a son? You kind of figure out who’s on your staff WAY before you hang out on the deck of a personnel transport as it approaches your area of operations.

The Travolta/Nolte scene is unbelievable.

You know what officers would have been discussing in a situation like this?

What dirt bag stole an officer’s Colt 45 and what dark hole are we going to drop that loser in? That’s the kind of conversation I would have expected from these two!

The sequence showing the Army troops landing on the beach at Guadacanal was well done. We got to see some Higgins boats in action and then nothing happened when the troops got to the beach.

Maybe because the Marines wiped the beaches clean months ago? Maybe because the Marines had pushed the Japanese to a single mountain stronghold?

However, based on my knowledge of Guadacanal the beaches are way too clean. The Marines had their hands full and the beaches weren’t THAT clean when the Army arrived.

And we’re walking.

Literally, we get to watch these soldiers walk through a series of fields of tall grass.

They casually pass a native casually walking down a path.

Knowing what I know about World War II, this tells ME that there aren’t any Japanese in the area. The Japs were so vicious to the natives and their other conquered “subjects” that no one was comfortable around them (during World War II).

However, if you don’t know anything about World War II, this is just more boring walking!

More boredom.

Our company comes across two dead GI’s. Nothing is said and without being fed any lines by the screenplay writer (and the director) everyone just gets to “react” to the carnage.

They don’t even get on the radio and call in the casualties to let Mortuary Affairs know about the two decedents.

No counsel or advice to “keep your head on a swivel, ’cause the Japs (though defeated) are still out there ready to sneak up on you and cut your throat during the night!”

Nope. Nothing. Just more boredom.

The deserter had been transferred to a unit of stretcher bearers and he’s cleaning the blood off of the canvas and goes into another pedantic whiny voice over!

My goodness! I thought this was supposed to be a war movie?

And that’s where I turned off “The Thin Red Line.”

This movie is a completely unrealistic look at World War II and I couldn’t even get to any of the “good stuff” to evaluate if the battle sequences were ‘realistic.’

Hard pass on this debacle.

James Jones has a novel “The Thin Red Line” from which his movie is allegedly adapted from (originally published in 1962), but this movie sure isn’t encouraging me to race out to grab the book.

The Thin Red Line can be viewed on Amazon Prime, but I wouldn’t recommend it.