Friday, January 13, 2012
The Thin Red Line (1998)
The Tree of Life isn't overlooked. In some ways it is a "difficult" movie—shifting from the cosmic to the mundane with nary a violin crescendo to warn us, its narrative structure committed to the conceit that what we are seeing is all memory, personal as well as collective-unconsciously. For others, though, it's what Roger Ebert recently in a blog entry on the movie Contact referred to (with some affection) as "New Age woo-woo." I was knocked out by The Tree of Life, joining others who couldn't help comparing it to 2001—another acid test of one's tolerance for High Woo-Woo.
Anyway, in case you're following the Oscars but not Malick's career, you might want to check out The Thin Red Line, Malick's 1998 film about, among many other things, the battle for Guadalcanal in the Pacific during WWII. The cast is extensive—including Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, George Clooney, Adrien Brody, James Caviezel, Woody Harrelson, John Cusack, Elias Koteas, John C. Reilly, John Travolta, and Tim Blake Nelson (whew!)—but to this he adds a larger cast, the same one he features in The Tree of Life: Nature herself, cloud and insect, ocean and leaf. This is a "war movie" (almost) in the same way that his current picture is a "family drama"—although The Thin Red Line does seem more grounded in recognizable combat film conventions, from chain-of-command infighting and sweeping battle scenes to G.I. Joes and their stories and hopes and fears. Still, it is almost three hours of meditation on war as much as it is war movie. But, as with all of his (few--five since 1973!) films, one's patience is rewarded. Like any "true" artist, he goes where he will; we follow if we choose, no matter to him.