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The Thin Red Line, A Most Carefully Cut Film

Paul Ambrose
Paul Ambrose
Recommended: The Line Red Line
Recommended: The Line Red Line

Of all films in history, none have been so carefully labored over as Terrence Mallick’s The Thin Red Line.  Nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best in Film Editing, it won the top prize at the 1999 Berlin International Film Festival.

This movie actually took 20 years to make and many big name movie stars acted in the movie but were cut from the final editing.  These actors included such big names as Robert De Niro, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Martin Sheen, Kevin Costner, Billy Bob Thornton, Gary Oldman and Mickey Rourke. 

All their scenes were eventually removed from the final edited version in favor of other, equally impressive names such as Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, John Cusack, John Travolta and Woody Harrelson who each held leading roles and are featured in the final cut.

The Thin Red Line tells a fictional story of US forces in the Battle of Guadalcanal during World War II.  The most notable focus is on a fictional character named Private Witt (played by Jim Caviezel) who has conflicted feelings about the question of war. The name is said to be derived from the poet Walt Whitman who showed a deep appreciation for the beauty of nature but also for the reality of war.  Colonel Tall (played by Nick Nolte) exhibits an intense desire to win the battle at all costs and Private Bell (played by Ben Chaplin) watches as the dissolution of his marriage take place while fighting the war.

The Thin Red Line was not successful at the box office but the critics loved it.  Martin Scorsese even ranked it as his second favorite film of the 1990s.  This is an intensely thought provoking movie that raises many philosophical questions about the mystical nature of war and struggle in spiritual perfection.  Private Witt emerges as the hero who transcends all these challenges and makes for an idyllic example of true sacrifice.

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