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directed by Terrence Malick
USA 1998

 

After directing two of the most extraordinary movies of the 1970s, Badlands and Days of Heaven, American artist Terrence Malick disappeared from the film world for twenty years, only to resurface in 1998 with this visionary adaptation of James Jones’s 1962 novel about the World War II battle for Guadalcanal. A big-budget, spectacularly mounted epic, The Thin Red Line is also one of the most deeply philosophical films ever released by a major Hollywood studio, a thought-provoking meditation on man, nature, and violence. Featuring a cast of contemporary cinema’s finest actors—Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas, and Woody Harrelson among them—The Thin Red Line is a kaleidoscopic evocation of the experience of combat that ranks as one of the greatest war films ever produced.

***

There has truly never been a film about modern war quite like this one: a kind of lyric epic poem about the way men are transformed for good by the experience of war, carefully balancing romanticism and dispassion, action and introspection. Like Malick's Badlands and Days of Heaven, it is spare, fleet, elliptical, and establishes a careful middle-distance from the circumstances of its characters, disarming the processes of audience identification and implication for all but the briefest of moments. More significantly, and unlike Saving Private Ryan, it also seems determined to evade the mythopoeic impulse - that which makes a film larger than life and proffers it to stand in for history.

[...]

Above all, Malick expresses the transcendental imperative in terms of light. It is forever in the Emersonian cadences of Witt's thoughts: "Darkness, light, strife, and love, are they the workings of one mind? The features of the same face? Oh my soul, let me be in you now, look out through my eyes, look out at the things you made, all things shining." In their final conversation, a strange Conradian bond having formed between them, Sgt. Welsh mockingly asks Witt, "You still believing in the beautiful light, are you?" Quietly adding, "How do you do that?", Penn captures a subtle shift in Welsh, suggesting a man who, after all he's been through, is no longer secure in his beliefs. Witt responds, "I still see a spark in you." Early on in the film a young soldier dies, looking upwards, and Malick cuts to the bright sun directly overhead, its rays shining down through the trees' leaves. In that terrible moment once again there is rapture and grace, a union of the profound and the inconsequential, one more moment of transcendence. All things shining indeed.

Excerpt from Gavin Smith's Review in Film Comment located HERE

Poster

Theatrical Release: December 25th, 1998

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Comparison

20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray

20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

Box Cover

   

Released on Blu-ray Steelbook in the UK in May 2014:

Distribution

20th Century Fox

Region 1 - NTSC

Criterion Collection - Spine # 536 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:50:25 2:50:47.070
Video

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.26 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,843,371,266 bytes

Feature: 37,287,217,152 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.02 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate DVD

Bitrate Blu-ray

Audio English (DTS 5.1) DTS-HD Master Audio English 4314 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4314 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps /
24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English, Spanish, none English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date: January 23rd, 2001
Keep Case

Chapters 31

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,843,371,266 bytes

Feature: 37,287,217,152 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.02 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video


Edition Details:

• New audio commentary by Toll, production designer Jack Fisk, and producer Grant Hill
• Interviews with several of the film’s actors, including Kirk Acevedo, Jim Caviezel, Thomas Jane, Elias Koteas, Dash Mihok, and Sean Penn; composer Hans Zimmer; editors Billy Weber, Leslie Jones, and Saar Klein; and writer James Jones’s daughter Kaylie Jones
• New interview with casting director Dianne Crittenden, featuring archival audition footage
• Fourteen minutes of outtakes from the film
• World War II newsreels from Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands
• Melanesian chants
• Original theatrical trailer
• 38-page booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt and a 1963 reprint by James Jones

 

Blu-ray Release Date: September 28th, 2010
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 23

 

Comments

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - September 2010: I can safely say that I have a new 'demo' disc for my system! The Criterion is advertised as "New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Terrence Malick and cinematographer John Toll" and I have no reason to doubt how authentic it looks to the original theatrical appearance. It pummels the DVD in all important visual areas - from detail (significantly brighter image on the 1080P Blu-ray) to accuracy of colors, from grain to contrast. This is, now, one of the best looking discs that I own with kudos to John Toll.

Before starting the film it states that Terrence Malick suggest The Thin Red Line should be played at a high volume. Done. The DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 4314 kbps competently handles the aggressive track with plenty of war explosions, gunfire as well as Hans Zimmer's delicate but potent score. There is solid depth in the mix with immersive separations, impressive bass and healthy range. I can't imagine it sounding better - even in the theater. My software couldn't obtain a subtitle capture but I can assure you that the Criterion, predictably, contains optional English subtitles and my Momitsu confirms that the disc is region 'A'-locked.

Extras are bountiful starting with a new audio commentary by cinematographer John Toll, production designer Jack Fisk, and producer Grant Hill. I look forward to indulging in it this evening. There are several interviews combined in a 1/2 hour piece with the film’s actors (many up-and comers), including Kirk Acevedo, Jim Caviezel, Thomas Jane, Elias Koteas, Dash Mihok, and Sean Penn. They discuss Malick and the experience they had in being a part of the film production. I felt this could have been a two hour featurette - the information was wonderful to hear. There isa new interview with casting director Dianne Crittenden, featuring archival audition footage with Ben Chaplin, Tom Jane, Elias Koteas, Dash Mihol, John Savage and Nick Stahl. She worked for more than a year on casting The Thin Red Line and her insights here are informative - it lasts 18-minutes. In a 28-minute feature on 'editing' The Thin Red Line three individuals, Leslie Jones, Saar Klein, and Billy Webber share how they helped shape the film from more than a million feet of footage. Composer Hans Zimmer is interviewed for 16.5 minutes about the score for the film. We get 19-minutes with writer James Jones’s daughter Kaylie Jones who has penned a number of her own works about her life growing up, including A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (1990) and Lies My Mother Never Told Me (2009). In addition to newspaper coverage about World War II, news was brought to Americans via theatrical newsreels, shown before features. Criterion have included some archival newsreels from Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands showing how the Pacific conflict was presented to those at home, heightening the success of the troops and largely omitting the horrors of the battle which would be addressed by James Jones in his 1962 novel The Thin Red Line. There is 14-minutes of 8 outtakes from the film, the 6:47 of Melanesian chants available on the UK DVD - recorded in November 1997. All video supplements are in HD as is the 2:51 original theatrical trailer presented as the final digital extra. Lastly Criterion have included a 38-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt and a 1963 reprint by James Jones with photos.

This is the type of film that seems restrained on DVD and, like Days of Heaven, is one of reasons to own a Blu-ray player. An unforgettable film with the highest caliber of audio and video transfer - an absolute must-own for ANY cinema fan. 

Gary W. Tooze

***

ON THE DVD: Those keen on the DTS sound option may find this available from Amazon third-party sellers as it is out-of-print and has been for a while. The image quality of the region 1 Fox releases is excellent and very film-like and there are no supplements (possible as the film is so long hence space on the disc was limited).

***

On the UK edition available HERE: Fox also did stellar job on this UK release of "The Thin Red Line". The image is stupendous! Sharp detail and crystal clarity, vivid colors and flawless contrast. The 5.1 audio track just adds to the amazement and is very strong on all levels. There are, unfortunately, no real extras on this disc. You will find a selection of those haunting Melanesian songs from the film though, as well as the obligatory theatrical trailer.

***

Terrence Malick keeps the cinema alive. He's one of the few genuine poets of contemporary cinema who has the power, originality and depth of feeling of the old masters. Watching his films, one gets the sense that he has a true understanding of life in its essence. To watch his work is therefore an enlightening and inspiring experience. "The Thin Red Line" may very well be his masterwork, a film that grasps human nature and treats one of cinema's most often used themes, war, with unprecedented intelligence and care. "The Thin Red Line" should be essential viewing and this DVD a must for every cinephile.

 - Stan Czarnecki

 



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Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Blu-ray

 

Box Cover

   

Released on Blu-ray Steelbook in the UK in May 2014:

Distribution

20th Century Fox

Region 1 - NTSC

Criterion Collection - Spine # 536 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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