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But John Travolta, in early on as a general, and George Clooney, on view even more briefly six minutes before the end, prove more distracting than helpful in cameos.
As good as some of the actors are in individual dramatic moments, there are no real character arcs here and, as a result, no truly rounded performances.
The troop ship is loaded with other soldiers very anxious about what awaits them on the island: Lt. Tall (Nick Nolte), an aging lifer with the opportunity to finally lead a battalion in battle; Capt.
Staros (Elias Koteas), a thoughtful lawyer and commander of Charlie Company whose desire to protect his men puts him at odds with Tall; Pvt.
Things like the Garden of Eden, Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” mankind as a collective embodiment of the two extremes of nature, and other lofty but hardly obscure notions.
Gaff (John Cusack), whose intelligent resourcefulness will prove no more or less useful in battle than the animal instincts of Pfc. Surprised to encounter no initial resistance on the lush green island, the Americans are forced to pursue the Japanese up toward their dug-in positions in the hills, resulting in some fierce action, loads of casualties and a resulting refusal by Staros to obey what he views as Tall’s suicidal order to take one hill by frontal assault.He recently worked on the hit FX show Sons of Anarchy (2008), for creator Kurt Sutter and Satellite Award Nominated feature film, Swelter (...Like a Rousseau painting splattered with carnage of warfare, “The Thin Red Line” indelibly presents a worldly paradise devastated by man’s irrepressible impulse to destroy.Witt (Jim Caviezel), one of the AWOL soldiers, who will always idealize his privileged moments among the friendly island natives even during the peak of battle, and First Sgt.Welsh (Sean Penn), the cynical every-man-for-himself leader of Charlie Company, an Army infantry outfit being sent to replace Marines in the invasion of Japanese-held Guadal-canal.
WWII buffs and fans of the James Jones novel on which the film is based may be brought up short by the lack of political, strategic and military nuts and bolts vis-a-vis the battle of Guadalcanal, while even the Malick faithful will have to remember that the director’s forte was always for fabulous visuals and haunting moods rather than for coherent storytelling.