Malick’s ‘Thin Red Line’ shines on Criterion Blu

Posted by · 12:01 pm · September 28th, 2010

If you’re sitting there right now, reading these words, killing time, nothing much to do this afternoon, do yourself a favor — go out and buy the new Criterion Blu-ray release of Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line.”

I’ve been delighting in this top 10 all-timer all week, probably my most anticipated home video release since, oh, “Batman” hit VHS during the holidays in 1989?  Naturally, there is no on-screen involvement from Malick, but there is plenty to explore.

First, let’s start with the film itself.  John Toll’s gorgeous, mesmerizing photography pops with crystal clarity as, finally, his work on the film gets the treatment it deserves.  The sound is also striking (though let me know if I’m the only one who notices it pop in suddenly over the title screen), the mix of elements and Hans Zimmer’s score truly immersive.

The extras, though, are like a candy shop.  There is a lot of attention placed on the actors, as well there should be.  “The Thin Red Line” boasted a roll call of players stunning even to this day.  Sure, there are a number of A-listers peppered here and there (and plenty left on the cutting room floor, too), but then there are guys like Thomas Jane, Kirk Acevedo, Adrien Brody, Jared Leto, Nick Stahl and John C. Reilly who were really beginning to pop out around this time.

It’s wonderful to hear from a number of these, as well as Sean Penn, Elias Koteas, Dash Mihok and Jim Caviezel in a supplement that rounds up their reflective thoughts on the piece and their time with Malick.  Additionally, a casting featurette with casting director Dianne Crittenden, who worked for over a year at putting the ensemble together.  She gives so many insights into the various characters and what she was looking for, while a generous amount of audition footage is scattered throughout.

The film’s first cut was five hours long (and God knows I’d love to see THAT), but it was whittled down to 170 minutes from over a million feet of footage.  That says a lot for the work Leslie Jones, Saar Klein and Billy Weber put into the film at the Avid, so of course, a featurette on the editing was a must.  It reveals Malick’s process by proxy and is a fascinating 28 minutes on the disc.

While we don’t (nor, I imagine, will we ever) get to see a substantial amount of that cutting room floor footage, we do get eight outtakes from the film.  These include an extended scene between Reilly and Caviezel, another between Ben Chaplin and George Clooney, a stirring sequence that illuminates Stahl’s otherwise fleeting character considerably, some of Brody’s nixed footage and, most intriguing, a moment with Mickey Rourke offering up a character I’d have loved to have seen expanded.

Hans Zimmer’s best work to date is probably the floating melodies of this film, so it’s nice to have an 18-minute interview with the composer.  Additionally there is an interview with Kaylie Jones, daughter of the novel’s author, James Jones, as well as archival newsreel footage on the Battle of Guadalcanal.  Finally, Melanesian chants (some of which, you’ll remember, feature prominently in the film) are offered up with photo accompaniment.

It’s a really handsome package, to say the least.  I really, really wish we could have had more of Rourke’s character here.  In fact, I wish he could have featured considerably in the narrative we eventually got.  And I’ll try not to hold my breath for that five hour cut one of these days.  But as a die hard supporter of this film since that day in December of 1998 when I walked out of a Charlotte multiplex, I couldn’t have asked for much more from this release.  A big thank you to Criterion for finally putting it together.




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15 responses so far

  • 1 9-28-2010 at 12:34 pm

    Mike_M said...

    I am anxiously awaiting my copy to be delivered to my office from Amazon all day. At 10:16 AM EST the USPS tracking site said it was out for delivery… I bet it is in the mail room, but they will be bring it to me closer to 4 PM.

  • 2 9-28-2010 at 12:36 pm

    Mike_M said...

    Speak of the devil! It just arrived… maybe I should pop this in a Blu-ray player in one of our conference rooms…

  • 3 9-28-2010 at 2:27 pm

    The Motorcycle Boy said...

    I am so jealous of you lucky Americans. All of Malick’s films (The New World excepted) get a bum deal over here in England when it comes to DVD release. Why must Criterion region-lock their Blu-rays? How much money are they missing out on when you consider there are no release dates for Days of Heaven or The Thin Red Line scheduled in this country. Hopefully the Mickey Rourke clip will find its way onto YouTube.

  • 4 9-28-2010 at 3:10 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Is there a seperate score track as well?

  • 5 9-28-2010 at 3:32 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Not that I noticed.

  • 6 9-28-2010 at 3:35 pm

    Christopher said...

    Out of curiosity Kris what’s your top 10 of all time?

  • 7 9-28-2010 at 5:36 pm

    Chris138 said...

    Can’t wait to get this one.

  • 8 9-28-2010 at 6:10 pm

    Rashad said...

    This movie could have been so much better

  • 9 9-28-2010 at 6:44 pm

    Meli said...

    Thank you for this writeup! I’d let the date slip my mind. My small stack of DVDs-to-give-to-friends grows a little taller as I upgrade those films I must have on Blu-ray, and Criterion continues to steal my heart and extra spending money.

  • 10 9-28-2010 at 6:55 pm

    Brady said...

    As much as I’d do horrible things to see the 5 hour cut of The Thin Red Line, I would do things Hitler would gasp at in order to see the four and a half hour version of The Assassination of Jesse James. But alas…

  • 11 9-28-2010 at 7:09 pm

    Glenn said...

    Loved this movie, but it’s still only my third favourite Malick (behind “Heaven” and “World”).

    My favourite performance is Elias Koteas. Such an underused actor!

  • 12 9-28-2010 at 9:39 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    Watching the supplements now. Will watch the film this weekend when I can set aside 3 hours to do so. But needless to say, Criterion really outdid themselves here. That we have an organization that cares so deeply about film preservation and restoration of classics, seen and underseen, like The Thin Red Line (my second favorite film of all time and IMO one of the ten best films ever made) and hundreds of others is such a blessing. And yeah, that momentary glimpse of Rourke was a highlight. Looks like he was really bringing something special to the role that unfortunately, will never see the light of day outside of that couple of seconds (same for Viggo Mortensen, Martin Sheen, and several others cut from the film). But overall, this is one of the best Blu-rays I’ve ever purchased.

  • 13 9-29-2010 at 9:47 am

    Mike_M said...

    @Brady I agree…

    Almost every week I try and write an email to Criterion to suggest they do a release of Jesse James and tell them to try and get their hands on the longer cut…

    @The Motorcycle Boy their home video dist deals are only for N. America… that is how they work. You do have Master’s of Cinema putting out spectacular releases though (esp Sunrise which is region-free luck for us in the US :) ).

  • 14 9-29-2010 at 10:43 am

    bunbun said...

    I’d also be interested in seeing Kristopher’s all-time top ten list.

  • 15 9-29-2010 at 11:45 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    One day, I’m sure.