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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Lots of themes are discussed in voiceover, including love, war, memory, and trauma. The conclusions drawn are from soldiers who've experienced conflict, so are generally negative but remain questioning. Nature is contrasted against the destruction of war and the violent actions of the military.
Positive Role Models
Private Witt is a thoughtful U.S. soldier who has been living peacefully with South Pacific Natives after going AWOL. Picked up by the army, he takes part in military operations against the Japanese Army. He fights bravely and volunteers for a dangerous mission to help others. Captain Staros defies orders from his superiors to protect his men, risking his military career to do so. Lieutenant Colonel Tall denies requests to change the mission that would result in saving soldiers' lives. His priority is strategic military advancement regardless of human cost. But speaking one-to-one, he displays understanding of other points of view and shows compassion.
The Natives of the South Pacific Melanesia region are shown living in harmony with nature and operating within a peaceful, civilized society. Their way of life, and the wildlife of the South Pacific contrasts strongly with the military action going on. U.S. soldiers refer to Japanese soldiers as "Japs" but the movie shows both sides as scared young men forced into conflict.
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Violence & Scariness
Bloody, harrowing realistic violence throughout. Many soldiers die in battle, with gory wounds shown and emotional deaths involving fear and panic. Soldiers are shot, blown up, and stabbed with bayonets. Terrified prisoners of war are tormented and a soldier removes the teeth from enemy corpses.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A clothed couple kiss and caress each other during an intimate scene, with sex implied.
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Language includes "f---ing," "goddamn," "sons of bitches," and "bulls--t." Japanese soldiers referred to as "Japs."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters smoke cigarettes. They also drink alcohol in a handful of scenes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Thin Red Line is a harrowing but thoughtful World War II drama with violent scenes, strong language, and a nearly three-hour runtime. Based on the autobiographical novel by James Jones, director Terrence Malick balances the war action with the emotional lives of the soldiers and the wildlife on a Pacific Island, resulting in a reflective movie about human nature. Private Witt (Jim Caviezel) has been AWOL, living peacefully with the Natives of the South Pacific Melanesia region, who are shown living in harmony with nature and operating within a peaceful, civilized society. Their way of life, and the wildlife of the South Pacific contrasts strongly with the military action, which depicts strong, gory, and realistic violence throughout. Often a tough watch, the movie shows the horrors of war on soldiers' emotional and physical states. Themes of love and loss are explored. Strong language throughout includes variants of "f--k," while Japanese soldiers are referred to as "Japs" by U.S. soldiers. The movie depicts all soldiers from both sides as humans, with feelings of fear and concern. A flashback scene shows a clothed couple kiss and caress each other, with sex implied. Soldiers are shown smoking and in a couple of scenes they are seen drinking. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
As director Terrence Malick has continuously shown with his movies such as The Tree of Life, he is interested in the big picture and big questions. So during war movie The Thin Red Line, which covers a small but brutal WWII military operation in the South Pacific, we get musings on life, death, love, and war. All of which are seamlessly woven in between brutal battle scenes. Unflinching in its "war is hell" message, we witness young men's innocence and spark stripped away on the battlefield. That's been done before though. What makes this film stand out is its vision beyond the battle. Beautiful shots of South Pacific wildlife and Native Melanesia people show the beauty of the world. This is in stark contrast to the humans carving up the island with bullets and explosions. In the shimmer of Malick's trademark golden light though, there is hope to be found in this deep and thoughtful movie. A life goes on message among the horrors.
Masterfully made, inspired choices drag the viewer into the horror. When the U.S. soldiers make it to a village, during one shot, a Japanese soldier begs for mercy, looking directly at the camera. It's strong stuff. The movie's on the side of all soldiers, not one army. The acclaimed director's first movie in 20 years brought out the big hitters, with a star-studded cast all bringing their A-game. Cameos range from John Travolta to George Clooney but never feel out of place or showy. It's a huge cast for a small, thoughtful movie that poses those big questions Malick loves to ask of his audience.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.