The fact that The Thin Red Line was released hot on the heels of Steven Speilberg's blockbuster Saving Private Ryan meant that comparisons between the two would inevitably be drawn. Both are anti war pictures, both take place within the context of World War II and both are monster-budget productions. The comparison ends there. These are two wildly different films.
The Thin Red Line isn't an easy film to sum up. It is relentlessly slow paced, very introspective and purposefully ambiguous and unfocused. Characters come and go in this film so quickly that we hardly have a chance to identify with them before they're gone. The plot itself revolves around a small part of the battle of Guadalcanal but it could have been any war in any era. The real theme of the movie seems to be that wars are an unavoidable force of nature, that conflict is a constant throughout the animal kingdom and that no matter what individuals do they're doomed to play out the same cycle of destruction over and over again.
I say that this seems to be the theme because to me it is and that fact is very telling. The Thin Red Line is a rich and demanding experience that requires the viewer to lend his own interpretation to it in order to achieve meaning. The film's strongest point is that when walking away from it one is left with more productive questions than easy answers. This is in stark contrast to Spielberg's film, which tells viewers in no uncertain terms exactly what they should think and how they should feel every step of the way.
If you're searching for a title to show off your new big screen TV you've found it in The Thin Red Line. This DVD features one of the best transfers I've ever seen. The film elements themselves are pure reference quality with no dust or scratches whatsoever. The transfer to DVD is beautifully done. Colors are rich but not over saturated, there are no edge effects, compression artifacts or vertical jitter to be seen and the shadow detail is simply mind-blowing. These images will show off the full capability of your TV.
The Dolby 5.1 audio track is easily the match of the video transfer. The film places the viewers in a complete 3D-soundfield rich with atmospheric effects, 360 degree panning and plenty of LFE in the more energetic scenes. Dialogue is always clear and never gets lost under music and other effects. The score lilts pleasantly across both front speakers and splashes the rears to achieve a very enveloping effect. This isn't an action film so don't expect a rollercoaster ride. What you get instead is a fully immersive and subtle audio environment.
Fox Home Video really dropped the ball when it came to extras on this release. There are no text screens with actor and cast profiles (these are relegated to the printed DVD case insert), there are no production notes and, astonishingly, there is no theatrical trailer. The only thing you get is a collection of eleven Melanesian songs. These are interesting cuts to listen to but I kept asking myself why they were chosen in favor of an isolated score or a short production featurette.
The Thin Red Line is a demanding film and, in the end, a very satisfying one. Many viewers may find the pace too slow on first screening and others may resent the fact that it isn't more concrete in its message. To my way of thinking those are its strongest points. I recommend The Thin Red Line to moviegoers with a desire to be challenged by what they see and hear on the big screen. All others should rent before buying.