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The Thin Red Line
The Criterion Collection

review by Zach B.



MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 171 Minutes

Starring: Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel, Ben Chaplin, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Elias Koteas, Nick Nolte, John C. Reilly

Screenplay by: Terrence Malick
Based upon the novel by: James Jones

Directed by: Terrence Malick



Studio: Criterion

Retail Price: $39.95

Features: Audio Commentary with Cinematographer John Toll, Production Designer Jack Fisk and producer Grant Hill, Theatrical Trailer, Actors, Interview with Casting Director Dianne Crittenden, Editing, Music, Interviews, Outtakes, World War II Newsreels, Melanesian Chants

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, Chapter Selection (11 Chapters)

Released: September 28th, 2010



"The Thin Red Line" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, in a gorgeous new transfer that was supervised by Terence Malick and cinematographer John Toll. Everything about the picture quality here is vivid, so much so that you'll likely feel embedded with the soliders of the film. Color saturation is well-rendered and deep, but never bursts into oversaturation. Detail is phenomenal, specifically all the little elements of the jungle you'll be able to spot in the foreground and background. Black levels are remarkably solid, and fleshtones are quite accurate too. Overall, this is an outstanding and crisp transfer.


"The Thin Red Line" features a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix, that is just as enveloping as you could hope for. Of course, the highlights occur in the scenes that define war: namely the intense gunfire, that is incredibly discrete and bounces around the rears and the front channels to really pit you into the action. As great as that is, the smaller things also do shine. Dialogue is always clear and easy to hear, small surrounds add to the ambience of the jungle, and the Hans Zimmer score has a quiet power. Dynamic range is superlative, fidelity is really high and the subwoofer is bound to shake your home theater. This is an expertly designed sound mix that won't disappoint anyone who watches this disc. (Note though that the original Fox release had a DTS mix, so for that, you may want to hold onto it. But there's also the Blu-ray version Criterion version which has a DTS-HD master mix.)

English subtitles are included.


A features-ladden release of "The Thin Red Line" was a long time coming, considering the original Fox release only had a few supplements. I'm sure because of the bounty of extras and the new transfer, fans of the movie are sure to be happy with this Criterion release. 

Terrence Malick is notoriously private, and thus he's not an overt presence in this package. Still, there's a lot to go around here that gives nice glimpses into the film's production and overall vision. The first disc features the Theatrical Trailer, as well as an Audio Commentary with Cinematographer John Toll, Production Designer Jack Fisk and producer Grant Hill. Their comments range on the more techical side. There are production stories, but the track goes into staging the battles, accomplishing key visuals and the hard work of the crew. Cinephiles will probably appreciate this track the most.

The second disc features Actors, which interviews some main players of the cast. They discuss how they came into the production (and in some cases, which parts they originally read for), rehearsing and working with Malick. Casting features casting director Dianne Crittenden, as she talks about how she went about casting such a large ensemble. It's pretty fascinating, not just from the perspective of the movie, but her process in general (how many other DVDs have had supplements devoted to casting? I can't think of any off the top of my head). I won't ruin it, but there's audition footage too — including some actors that didn't make it into the film, but have had — or already had — respectable careers of their own.

Also fascinating is the Editors interview, featuring the trio who cut the movie: Leslie Jones, Saar Klein and Billy Weber. A collective portrait in how the film was shaped is pretty remarkable, given how they worked with Malick who could be a little unorthodox. Music has an interview with composer Hans Zimmer, who talks about his work on the movie. In another interview, James Jones's daughter talks about her father and his background, over a bevy of stills. 

The Outtakes are actually eight deleted scenes, and the strands that were cut are worth watching at least once. There's about 15 minutes worth of World War II Newsreels featuring the Guadalcanal conflicts, so it provides a small way to compare and contrast the historical background of the movie. There's also Melanesian Chants played over production stills. 

Finally, inside the package is your usual Criterion Booklet, featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt and a 1963 Saturday Evening Post essay by James Jones — one that could be considered a bit ironic.


I am sure many have been anticipating a brand new home video release of "The Thin Red Line," and it's truly a treat that this film is now part of the Criterion Collection. The new transfer is a marvel, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is engaging. It should come as no surprise that Malick himself is not featured on any of the supplements, but his collaborators are on hand to offer interesting tales about the film's production. There is also some great archival material, namely the interview with novelist James Jones's daughter and the newsreel footage. For fans of the film, this is a must purchase.

(Do note a Blu-ray version is also available.)