The Thin Red Line (1998) - Movie Review for History Teachers | Student Handouts
 
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The Thin Red Line (1998)
American History > United States in World War II > United States in World War II Books and Films
 
 
Length: 170 minutes (2 hours, 50 minutes)

Age appropriateness: Rated "R" in the United States due to graphic war scenes. The only nudity comes from some shots of soldiers skinny-dipping, but the shots are taken at such a distance that nothing is really visible.  This movie can safely be watched by mature high school students with parental permission.

Creators and stars: Adrien Brody, Arie Verveen, Ben Chaplin, Dash Mihok, Elias Koteas, George Clooney, James Jones, Jared Leto, Jim Caviezel, John C. Reilly, John Cusack, John Dee Smith, John Savage, John Travolta, Kirk Acevedo, Mark Boone Junior, Matt Doran, Miranda Otto, Nick Nolte, Nick Stahl, Norman Patrick Brown, Paul Gleeson, Penelope Allen, Sean Penn, Simon Billig, Terrence Mallick, Thomas Jane, Travis Fine, Will Wallace, Woody Harrelson

Accuracy: This film is based on a 1962 autobiographical novel by James Jones, based on the experiences of American soldiers at Guadalcanal in the Pacific during World War II. The one major "uh-oh" is when the wife of Ben Chaplin's character informs him that she has fallen in love with an Air Force captain. The Air Force was not organized until 1947, after WWII; however, this same inconsistency appears in Jones's novel.

Review: If I were reviewing this movie based on cinematography, acting, and method of storytelling, it would easily get a 9/10 rating. However, reviewing this film for its effectiveness in a history classroom, it gets a 6/10 rating. This movie is simply too long to use in a classroom. Additionally, while this movie is set during World War II (Guadalcanal), the film's focus is so much on the inner lives of the characters that the movie could be set at almost any time, during almost any war. In other words, teenagers won't walk away from this movie any more knowledgeable about World War II than before they watched this movie.

All the same, this movie accurately portrays the harsh realities of war. Some students might enjoy watching it in their free time.
 
 
  Simon Billig in <i>The Thin Red Line</i> (1998)   John Cusack in <i>The Thin Red Line</i> (1998)   Scene from <i>The Thin Red Line</i>   Ben Chaplin in <i>The Thin Red Line</i>   Nick Nolte and Simon Billig in <i>The Thin Red Line</i>  
 
  John C. Reilly in The Thin Red Line   Adrien Brody as Fife in The Thin Red Line   George Clooney in The Thin Red Line   James Caviezel   Dash Mihok in The Thin Red Line  
 
  Adrien Brody in The Thin Red Line (1998)   Jim Caviezel in The Thin Red Line (1998)   Sean Penn in The Thin Red Line   The Thin Red Line   The Thin Red Line Film Scene  
 
  James Caviezel   Adrien Brody and Ben Chaplin in The Thin Red Line   Adrien Brody in <i>The Thin Red Line</i> (1998)   <i>The Thin Red Line</i> Movie Scene   American Military Cemetery  
 
  Jim Caviezel in <i>The Thin Red Line</i> (1998)   Guadalcanal   Matt Doran in The Thin Red Line   James Caviezel, Adrien Brody, and Matt Doran in The Thin Red Line (1998)   Adrien Brody in The Thin Red Line  
 
      Japanese Soldiers   The Thin Red Line, 1998   Boaters in The Thin Red Line      
 
 
 
 
Miscellaneous: The Thin Red Line was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Both Bill Pullman and Lukas Haas were cut from the film's final edit, while future Oscar-winner Adrien Brody's part was reduced from a leading role to a minor role. You can see more of these actors in the extended DVD version of the movie. Click here to enlarge the official film poster.

Discussion Questions: Are there any traditional heroes in this film? How does the infidelity of Bell's wife contrast with traditional images of the "girl back home"? What do you believe is this film's central message about war?
 
 
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The Thin Red Line Movie Review Publication Date for Citation Purposes: May 20, 2012