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The Thin Red Line – Review

12 May

Terrence Malick is a very strange Hollywood entity that’s made not that many films over the course of over 40 years. His first two films, Badlands and Days of Heaven, were met with huge success. After these two achievements, Malick disappeared off the face of the earth until 1998 when he released his World War II epic The Thin Red Line. This is around the same time that Spielberg released what I consider to be the best war movie ever made, Saving Private Ryan, but there are people who believe that Malick’s film is right up there with it. While I will say that it is one of the most memorable and well made war films to come out of Hollywood, it may also be one of the weirdest.

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After being picked up on an island in the South Pacific after going AWOL, Pvt. Robert Witt (Jim Caviezel) is chewed out by Sgt. Edward Welsh (Sean Penn) and sent to Guadalcanal to be a part of a siege to secure Henderson Field from the Japanese. While on the island, the mass of soldiers have to secure Hill 210, which causes devastating casualties for the American forces. As the battle rages on and the days begin to pass by even slower, every soldier looks death in the eye through the sights of their guns and has to come to terms with the life that he’s led, the inevitable future that lays ahead,  and the possibility that they may never return home to the world that they know and have created for themselves.

The Thin Red Line is an outstanding example of a war movie, and I’m not sure how many people would deny that. While many war films deal with the European front, this movie deals with the battle that was raging on in the Pacific, specifically on Guadalcanal. This movie takes a really long time to get started, but when the battle finally gets going it doesn’t let up for a really long time. The original cut of this movie goes on for a little over 5 hours, and this is a rare time where I’d actually love to see the full 5 hour version because the 3 hour one that we have is so enthralling I feel like I need to see more. The combat is so intense and realistic that I began feeling anxious for the soldiers onscreen, even though I knew well enough that it was a movie. Not only is this a very intense movie, but the scenes of battle are shot in the most intricate and beautiful of ways. The camera sweeps over the battlefield in such a fashion that I can’t say I ever saw before. That is where Malick’s vision truly shines, and it’s almost blinding.

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So the battle scenes are all excellent and beautifully shot, but also the quieter scenes are shot in such a way that we see all of the beauty of nature that stands idly by as men wage their wars. It’s a pretty strong antiwar message done well, but things do tend to get a little weird. There are parts throughout the movie where the characters give these long winded soliloquies about the turmoil that they face everyday and the toll it’s taking on their lives and their beliefs. Seriously, this movie would gain a lot of points if those voice overs were taken out completely. It’s melodramatic and distracting because people simply don’t talk like that, especially when it’s already been established that it’s definitely not how that character talks normally. It’s just way too over the top, but that’s really my only complaint with this movie.

The Thin Red Line has a very odd story behind the making of it that makes it something of a Frankenstein monster masterpiece. Malick is known for taking an absurd amount of time to edit his movies, and this is a clear example of how far he’ll go to ensure he gets the picture he wants. Adrian Brody’s character went from being a lead to a secondary character who barely even speaks. The opposite goes for Caviezel, who’s character became the main focus of the story. The cast of actors in this movie is huge, but a lot of them end up being only cameos. Like I said, this movie was originally 5 hours long, so a  lot of their screen time got cut. Still, Malick knew what he wanted and the final product is great.

Plain and simply, The Thin Red Line is one of the best war movies ever made. There’s been countless, both old and new, but this movie has a certain beauty to it that Terrence Malick is known for capturing. That’s what really makes it stand out. Unfortunately, the film does lose points for the weird voice overs that more than border on the pretentious side. While that is a flaw, the rest of the movie is an epic masterwork of human drama and war.

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Cape Fear – Review

28 Dec

For a horror movie to really be successful, it’s important that it preys on very basic and human fears. What both the original 1962 version of Cape Fear and Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake exploits the fear of the intrusion of our personal spaces and the disruption of our lives. In this review, I’ll be talking about Martin Scorsese’s version, because this is the one I’ve actually seen. Traditionally, I can’t review a movie if I haven’t seen it, you know? So here we go.

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Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) is a lawyer who appears to have a great life. His family has a nice standing in the town of New Essex, and the only real problem is their teenage daughter, Danielle (Juliette Lewis) going to summer school. The carpet is quickly pulled out from under them when a convict of 14 years Max Cady (Robert De Niro) gets released. Cady and Bowden of a past that doesn’t add up just right and cost Cady 14 years of his life. Now that he’s freed, he vows to have his biblical revenge on Bowden and teach him all about loss.

The terrifying thing about this movie is that it isn’t something that just happens in the movies. People’s lives get invaded, uprooted, and otherwise ruined more often than one might think and the way Scorsese plays it in Cape Fear isn’t hard to believe. The incidences with Cady start out small and act as more of an annoyance for Bowden, but as the plot slowly moves along, Cady begins moving deeper and deeper into the minds of the Bowden family until he finally reaches their breaking point.

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Robert De Niro absolutely kills it in this movie and is definitely one of his best performances along with his role in Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, both Scorsese films strangely enough. It’s easy to become immediately repulsed by his character right when you first see him in the first scene of the movie. There’s automatically something that you just hate about him that progresses throughout the movie. The other scene stealer is Juliette Lewis as the young teenager whose mind is a blank page for Cady to scribble his psychopathic mumbo jumbo. She’s innocent and relatable for everyone whose ever been a teenager. You want to jump into the scene and save her from his madness, but you have to keep telling yourself that it’s just a movie.

One thing that kind of grinded my gears was the overuse of blue screen. There’s scenes with these really over dramatic clouds and stormy weather if something foreboding or sinister is happening in the Bowden household. Having that happen once is passable on the grounds of dramatic emphasis, but more than once just takes away the realism that this movie tries so hard to establish.

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I will say that I love the helplessness that you’re bound to feel while watching this movie as a result of the helplessness of the main characters. Nolte’s character really tries to get help from the legal system, but Cady is able to find loop holes in every instance. I’m not saying that Scorsese was trying to condemn the entire legal system, but he does succeed at pointing out the problems and inconsistencies that make it very easy for intelligent and scheming people to exploit to push the law to their favor.

This was a genuinely scary and suspenseful film because of its true to life nature and the brilliant performances by Robert De Niro and Juliette Lewis. The exploration of the legal system also adds depth without really straying away from the main story. This certainly is Scorsese’s best work, and I’m not sure of anyone who would rate it higher than Goodfellas or Raging Bull, but it’s still a great piece of film making, albeit a little over the top at points, that does its job to its fullest and then some.