A thin red line between the sane and the mad
One of those posts that’s basically about calling out something awesome, and posting the best of everything I found when I Google Image Searched it.
That handsome Joe up there is Keir Dullea. If you think you recognise him, that’s probably because of this.
Yup, and actually come to think of it, if I was witless enough to think of remaking 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY nowadays I might think of casting Jim Caviezel in the role. Caviezel played the central figure in Terrence Malick’s 1998 version (don’t call it a remake) of THE THIN RED LINE, while Dullea takes this role in the 1964 movie of the same name.
The two movies share the same basic storyline, some character names, even some dialogue (okay, so call it a remake) but I’d always figured the original couldn’t come close to Malick’s version in terms of its scale and vision. In Malick’s film man is at war with man, with himself, with an island, with nature, his own nature, all against Hans Zimmer’s imperious score, a few bars of which were enough to bring me to tears watching a ropey bootleg of the MAN OF STEEL promo that played at Comic-Con this year.
The revelation at lunch-time today as I settled my poorly self down in front of the 1964 version is that it ain’t far off. At a time when war movies rarely got any darker than Gregory Peck and David Niven having a set-to over whether to blow something up or not, Dullea’s Pvt. Doll is a first cinematic glimpse of a man truly at war, everything driven inwards into the haunted pallor of his receding frame.
From the first strained attempt to calculate the odds of surviving imminent bombardment, to the last against-the-odds incursion into a precipitous and seemingly impenetrable enemy bunker, life is a numbers game, the war’s generals as indifferent to the fate of one man as the universe they inhabit.
If I had to look for a movie that gets close, it would be THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957), which, jingoistic as it superficially seems, is dismally bleak at its dark centre. But even that, with its bloody-minded Alec Guinness and black-hearted Jack Hawkins, still portrays a war governed by sense, and judgement, and a misguided belief that all may one day be well. THE THIN RED LINE, both of them in fact, are about the war man wages in a place he can never hope to conquer, war that lasts forever, war that will never be lost or won.