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The Thin Red Line (1998)

R  |   |  Drama, War  |  15 January 1999 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 131,289 users   Metascore: 78/100
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Terrence Malick's adaptation of James Jones' autobiographical 1962 novel, focusing on the conflict at Guadalcanal during the second World War.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 7 Oscars. Another 19 wins & 39 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marty Bell
Pfc - Beade


In World War II, the outcome of the battle of Guadalcanal will strongly influence the Japanese advance into the Pacific theater. A group of young soldiers is brought in as a relief for the battle-weary Marines. The exhausting fight for a strategically-positioned airfield that allows control over a 1000-mile radius puts the men of the Army rifle company C-for-Charlie through hell. The horrors of war form the soldiers into a tight-knit group; their emotions develop into bonds of love and even family. The reasons for this war get further away as the world for the men gets smaller and smaller until their fighting is for mere survival and the life of the other men with them. Written by Julian Reischl <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Every man fights his own war.


Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for realistic war violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| | |

Release Date:

15 January 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La delgada línea roja  »

Box Office


$52,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$223,548 (USA) (25 December 1998)


$36,385,763 (USA) (7 May 1999)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This movie takes place at the Battle of Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal is situated in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean, north-east of Australia. Its local name is Isatabu and contains the country's capital, Honiara. The island is humid and mostly made up of jungle with a surface area of 2,510 square miles or 6,500-km². Guadacanal was named after Pedro de Ortega's home town Guadalcanal in Andalusia, Spain. de Ortega worked under Álvaro de Mendaña who charted the island in 1568. See more »


When the men are preparing to climb down into the assault craft, there is a shot of Captain Staros thinking to himself. Over his shoulder he carries an M1 carbine which has a mounted bayonet lug (post war feature). When he arrives on the island, suddenly his weapon doesn't have a bayonet lug anymore. See more »


[first lines]
Private Edward P. Train: What's this war in the heart of nature? Why does nature vie with itself? The land contend with the sea? Is there an avenging power in nature? Not one power, but two?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Composer Wrangler. . . Moanike'ala Nakamoto See more »


Referenced in Family Guy: The Thin White Line (2001) See more »


The Unanswered Question
Composed by Charles Ives
Performed by The Orchestra of St. Luke's
Conducted by John Adams
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Malick's Heavenly War
4 March 2000 | by (London, UK) – See all my reviews

This film is unlikely to be appreciated by audiences reared upon a diet of dumbed-down Hollywood action fare. However, if you're prepared to sit down and watch THE THIN RED LINE with no interruptions and give it the attention it deserves, you'll be rewarded with one of the most intelligent, poetic and stunningly beautiful films you're ever likely to see.

Director Terrence Malick's films are alive with a sense of pure cinema with every frame delivering such detail and richness that you could swear you were there. The only other person capable of bringing such an immediate sense of time and place and sheer nuance of film (although in a completely different way) is David Lean, another major league craftsman.

Here, again, Malick uses his customary voice-over device although this time as a means of vocalising the abstract thoughts of the various soldiers as they struggle to make some sense of the conflict. It's an interesting approach which allows the audience to identify with the characters in a far less superficial way than in, say, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (the film THE THIN RED LINE is most often and most unfairly compared to). Malick is also not afraid to take time to illustrate the continuing natural backdrop to the carnage. Mother Nature almost seems to be occupying a pivotal supporting role as a detached observer on the sidelines, calmly and inscrutably watching the chaos develop.

It's a measure of Malick's complete disinterest with the normal conventions of Hollywood that actors such as Lucas Haas, Vigo Mortensen, Jason Patric, Mickey Rourke, Martin Sheen and Billy Bob Thornton all spent months in Queensland Australia and the Solomon Islands filming roles that ultimately ended up on the cutting room floor. Blink and you'll also miss major marquee players such as John Travolta and George Clooney. The stand-out performances come from Jim Caviezel and, especially, Nick Nolte.

Nolte just seems to be getting better and better as he gets older and his portrayal of tyrant Colonel Tall is something to see. I have never seen anyone express such an impotent sense of rage, anger and fury than Nolte does here. It's a fantastic performance from a real pro and it's a mystery to me why he didn't get an Oscar.

John Toll's pristine cinematography and Hans Zimmer's wonderfully evocative (Oscar-winning) score are other strong elements. The unusual music and visuals contrast so well that Malick sometimes fades out the noise of the shouting, explosions and guns, an effect that only serves to heighten the emotional power of the experience further.

You won't see a more beautiful film about the horrors of war. Movies like this make the task of trawling through the weekly diet of dumb formulaic junk served up by Hollywood almost seem worthwhile.

193 of 245 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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