Malick was able to refresh the stale World War II film with a somewhat anti-war approach. Most films dealing with the second World War to at least some extent glorify war. As everyone knows, America won World War II therefore, going into The Thin Red Line you expect a triumphant victory at the end. Instead, the war ends with another company of soldiers going into war. The war never ends also in the respect of all war in general. The is the chaos of man just as in the chaos of nature (which is brought up in the film). I found the ending of The Thin Red Line to be very human. Unfortunately it wasn’t the most uplifting.
The sacrificed soldier by Witt at the end of The Thin Red Line emphasized the impact of the individual in war. By acting as a decoy, Witt (James Caviezel) was able to save his company. When surrounded by Japanese he raises his rifle and is instantly shot. I thought it was interesting that Caviezel played sort of a savior in The Thin Red Line and The Passion of the Christ. The character of Witt to me, was the most important as although he was uninterested in serving in the war (in the beginning he is AWOL living among Melanesians), he becomes the biggest hero for his fellowman. When he swims among the Melanesian children in a dreamlike sequence after he is killed, he seems to have found his peace.
The Thin Red Line also made war look a lot messier and chaotic than most World War II films. In the film most things are unpredictable. The sergeants and colonels come up with plans just as the fighting goes along. This chaos parallels a lot of what is going on in many of the soldiers heads. All of these men are scared, confused, and on the brink of insanity. The difference in the men comes in the form of what they are willing to sacrifice for their fellow soldiers. Other men are killed fast and forgotten.
Another interesting element of The Thin Red Line was its presentation of the Japanese. It takes a good while in the film to actually see these soldiers. Before we see Japanese soldiers, it feels like a never ending death machine wiping out American soldiers. When the Japanese soldiers are finally captured in their bunker they are very scared and helpless looking. This element of the film really stuck out to me. It showed how quickly man can change when facing different situations.
One other scene that really stuck out for me was the baiting of dying Japanese man by one of the American soldiers. The American soldiers tell the Japanese man that its all over. That he will soon be eaten by various birds in the sky. This scene was important in The Thin Red Line as it showed the hatred man can be pushed to in war. Out of all the World War II films that I have seen, this was the only one to feature such a hateful yet attractively powerful scene.
The Thin Red Line may now be my favorite American World War II film. Its unparalleled battle artistry introduced a new style in the World War II film. The only thing that hurt the film was its use of big name actors which in my opinion, take emphasis of the film itself. It's quite odd to see stoner surfer Spicoli (Sean Penn) in the middle of a chaotic World War II battlefield.