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Once upon a time, followers of Terrence Malick’s infrequent, visionary films constituted something of a cult. Nowadays, it seems that everyone who loves good movies loves Malick; just look at the response to the new Criterion edition of his 1998 film The Thin Red Line. Josef Braun, writing about the release for Edmonton, Alberta’sVue Weekly, eloquently describes the film: “It’s a genuine war epic, elegantly staged and chillingly violent, as well as a Tarkovsky-like meditation on nature, and one of the most penetrating and immersive megabudget movie experiences I can think of . . . The overall effect of The Thin Red Line is to leave us by its end feeling as though we’ve been pushed through something, borne witness to something grandiose that only the cinema can offer. We feel closer to a particular vision that’s at once helmed by a single and singular artist and a portrayal of a difficult to fathom experience shared by hundreds. There’s almost nothing like it.”
The idea of a Malick film as pure experience is echoed in reviews by Ryland Walker Knight at GreenCine Daily (“Any time filmmaker Terrence Malick releases a work of art, it becomes an event . . . Malick understands how movies help us see a world we can sense better than we can comprehend”); Rob Humanick in Slant (“The Thin Red Line continues to dwarf all but a handful of other war films . . . [Its] hallucinatory blend of images defines the very essence of cinema”); and the Miami Herald’s Rene Rodriguez (“Get ready to scrape your jaw off the floor . . . A stirring, haunting experience, one that’s unlikely to be matched by any other war picture you’ve ever seen”).
That such a profound, emotional, and unorthodox film came out of Hollywood is what most astonishes Dennis Lim, writing for the Los Angeles Times: “It boggles the mind that, after all that time away, Malick was able to put studio resources and an all-star cast in the service of a deeply personal, practically nonnarrative film, a lyric poem as much as a war epic, the kind of movie the industry had long stopped financing.”