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Parents' Guide to

The Thin Red Line

By Tom Cassidy, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Thoughtful, bleak WWII drama has strong violence, language.

Movie R 1998 170 minutes
The Thin Red Line Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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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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