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Things like the Garden of Eden, Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” mankind as a collective embodiment of the two extremes of nature, and other lofty but hardly obscure notions.The first characters to come to the fore in Malick’s significantly splintered tale are Pvt.
Like a Rousseau painting splattered with carnage of warfare, “The Thin Red Line” indelibly presents a worldly paradise devastated by man’s irrepressible impulse to destroy.
But John Travolta, in early on as a general, and George Clooney, on view even more briefly six minutes before the end, prove more distracting than helpful in cameos.
As good as some of the actors are in individual dramatic moments, there are no real character arcs here and, as a result, no truly rounded performances.
Terrence Malick’s much-anticipated return to the film scene after a 20-year hiatus is a complex, highly talented work marked by intellectual and philosophical ambitions that will captivate some critics and serious viewers as well as by an abstract nature, emotional remoteness and lack of dramatic focus that will frustrate mainstream audiences.
Fox’s only hope with this large-canvas art film is to get enough strong reviews to engage the attention of the upscale viewers beyond the small portion of them familiar with Malick’s outstanding 1970s work, then give it enough breathing room to allow for word-of-mouth to have an effect.
Structurally, the film is decidedly lumpy, with confrontations and climaxes coming and going abruptly, and a final 45 minutes in which the dramatic momentum slides noticeably downhill.