Living a lifestyle that is easier on your emotional psyche also has its drawbacks, as in, you don't have as much money to burn on obscene ticket prices, like the $15 required to buy a ticket for a midnight screening of The Tree of Life at the Arclight. I was like damn, if only I hadn't quit that job I hated to pursue other ventures, then I can be like "Fifteen dollars? Why sure! One for The Tree of Life, please!" So I didn't go to see Terrence Malick's new flick, but that was cool, because it gave me the opportunity to watch one his last joints again, The Thin Red Line.
You know how the narration in Days of Heaven has a rambling, inarticulate feel to it? (Come to think of it, this blog has a rambling, inarticulate feel, so this shit probably reads a lot better if you imagine it being read in Linda Manz' voice). And you know how said rambling narration contrasts with the on-screen beauty of the shots created by Malick and Nestor Almendros? Well, I like to think that there's something similar going on in this movie, only Malick inverted it or flip-flopped it or whatever you think sounds better.
What I mean is that you have all these soldiers from different walks of life, and when it comes to the way they communicate with their fellow brothers-in-arms, some are more articulate than others, and others more talkative than some, and then you got those who don't talk much at all. Yet, their inner monologues are all similarly poetic at times, and I guess you can be an asshole and say it's because they're all written by the same poet filmmaker, but then why wouldn't he have them all talk the same way either? I like to think it's because it's not so much their inner monologue, some talking to themselves kinda shit we're listening to, it's something way deeper and more awesome -- we're listening to their fuckin' souls talking here. If souls can talk, they'd sound like this.
We all have shit we want to say, and within ourselves it sounds as pure a statement as one could ever make, and yet somehow we can never communicate it out of our fuckin' mouths the way we'd like to; our brains and egos are holding us back from really saying the shit we wanna say in the way we wanna say it. Let me put it to you this way; I think most of us have music within us, we're whistling or humming shit, but not all of us know how to play a musical instrument, so we have to settle for whistling or humming that shit.
That's how I see it, anyway, I think we all have some Serious Shit in our hearts that we're capable of saying -- because we sure as shit are capable of feeling it -- but not all of us are Aces in the Articulation department, so instead you struggle to say it the best way you can, or you just shut the fuck up and say nothing, or you just keep it to yourself and mock the rest who try. Anyway, Malick's tapping into that shit, not by letting us hear what's going through these motherfucker's heads, but what's going through that Divine Spark you hear about every once in a while. Yeah, I know I'm speaking for myself here. The rest of you assholes are all William F. Buckley, Jr. in this motherfucker, I know.
Fuck 3D, this movie was shot in fuckin' God-Vision; it's like we're able to tap into God's fuckin' DVR while he goes through it late one night (God couldn't sleep, so he figured he'd make himself a sandwich and watch a little of The Ultimate Flatscreen), and he was going through the DVR playlist and decided to click on "Guadalcanal 1942-1943" to watch how his creation was doing during that time. He's like "Oh yeah, I remember my trees and beaches looking like that back then, oh and here are my birds and crocodiles chilling out. Oh, and here's the black sheep in my family -- Man -- up to their usual bullshit with that Free Will I gave those dumbasses".
That's why you have all those cutaways to stuff like mist flowing through leaves and lizards kicking back on a tree during heavy battle sequences -- in addition to serving as a contrast between nature's beauty and man's ugliness, those cutaways give us the opportunity to watch what God's watching, and that motherfucker is watching everything and everyone, and you're probably like "Everyone?" and now I gotta go Stansfield on your ass and clarify "EEEEVVVVEEEERRRRYYYYOOOONNNNEEEE!"
Speaking of Stansfield, the motherfucker who played him, Gary Oldman, I think he was supposed to be in this movie. A lot of people were supposed to be in this movie, but they got cut out. Mickey Rourke, Jason Patric, Viggo Mortensen, Bill Pullman -- fuck, you can make a pretty badass movie with the leftover scraps. To paraphrase some Tarantino interview, the only list more prestigious than the list of actors who survived the final cut of The Thin Red Line is the list of actors who didn't. It sucks to not be seen in the movie anymore, I'm sure, but I figure they at least have awesome Terrence Malick stories they can tell their grandchildren, and then the grandchildren would respond with "Who's Terrence Malick?" Martin Sheen was also cut out, but that guy already has a performance immortalized in a Terrence Malick joint and got to work with the guy twice already, so I'm not crying for him.
I'd love to see the fabled six-hour cut, though. I want to see what the deleted actors did in that version, I want to hear Billy Bob Thornton's original narration, and I'd love to see how Adrien Brody's character came off in that version. Apparently, he was like the main character in the long cut; think about that, you're an unknown actor and you not only get a role in Terrence Malick's next film, you get a choice lead role! If he only knew that Malick was a fiend for reinventing movies in the editing room; in the end, his character only has about two lines of dialogue and one of them is off-screen. It's pretty funny how his role transformed, though -- even though he was drastically reduced, he's still a major presence in the film throughout. He's almost like that girl in Schindler's List, the one in red, only his character stands out because he's the scared-looking guy who pops up everywhere but never says a word. Like Sheen, I'm not crying for him, he got a fuckin' Oscar a few years later AND macked on Halle Berry. Fuck that guy.
Jesus Christ, is he a good actor. I'm talking about Jesus Christ from The Passion of The Christ, he's really good here. I think this was his first big movie and it's easily his best work. A part like this could be overplayed in the wrong hands and come off really fuckin' fake -- less talented actors would over-Jesus the performance. But given that Malick actually hired the Son of God to play Private Witt, all he had to do was tell Jesus to bring it down a tad. As a result, you have a character who can calm a dying motherfucker down without being too angelic about it.
This guy Witt, he watched his mother die and he watched her accept that shit like it ain't no thang -- just advancing to the next level, I guess -- and it's rocked his world proper. Now, his deal is to reach that point where you're no longer afraid of death -- that doesn't mean you should put yourself out there and welcome it, that's suicide, son -- but when the time comes that it's obvious that your number's up and it's Time To Go, then just smile at that motherfucker Death, look that life-taking motherfucker straight in the eye and say Let's Do This. Take the joy out of that asshole's already shitty job.
That Spicoli-playing motherfucker Sean Penn, he's always got a bug up his ass about something, and in this movie, he's got a Jesus-sized bug up his ass about Pvt. Witt's attitude. This guy's a fuckin' hater, man, he can't be like Hey Man, Congrats On The Whole Accepting Death Thing, no, he's always trying to convince Witt that it's foolish to have that attitude because when you die, that's fuckin' it, man. Fuck risking your ass for someone else's, because if you get got, there's no reward other than total fuckin' blackness forever. FOR-EV-ER.
Then halfway through the movie, you start to wonder, who is Penn really trying to convince? It's after you see Penn's character occasionally exhibit a Witt-like spark, that you realize this motherfucker should be spitting all of this bullshit he's been spitting to a fuckin' mirror, not my man Witt. He'd love to be like Witt, but he can't fully accept it, so out comes the booze and the tough-talk. Sorry to call Sean Penn a bitch, but the lady doth protest too much, methinks.
Whoever thinks this movie is anti-war is probably the kind of motherfucker who polishes his gun collection every day and talks mad shit but would douse his fuckin' drawers if he ever had to point that shit at something that wasn't a paper target with Osama's face on it. This shit isn't anti-war or pro-war, it just Is War, man. Malick's not trying to make any statement other than how hard it is to figure us human beings out. I guess you can say Kubrick was doing the same thing with Full Metal Jacket, but it's obvious that there's a negative worldview to everything going on in that movie, it's like he's saying it's in our nature to be pieces-of-shit to our fellow man. Malick is saying that, yeah, it's in our nature, sure, but so is love and compassion, and life is a daily battle to keep the darker side of your soul from winning out over the lighter parts -- it's just that war makes it so much harder not to keep that shit at bay. Because watching your friend slowly die from wounds received by the enemy makes it soooo fuckin' easy to want to bash a fuckin' Japs head in and pull his teeth out with pliers, rather than simply taking him prisoner.
During one violent charge at the enemy, you can see one Japanese soldier huddled over his fallen buddy, and he's wielding a knife, keeping any approaching Americans away. Goddamn, can you imagine the story between those two, the fuckin' 3-hour movie that transpired between those two characters? These guys might have been lifelong friends, or they became friends during the war, or shit, maybe it was like one of those buddy movies where they hated each other at first, then grew to love each other as brothers -- and then one of them gets shot.
I saw this in the movie theater, back in January or February of '99 and it was an odd experience because you can sense the packed crowd at this neighborhood multiplex grow more and more impatient as each minute passed. I can't blame them, they weren't prepared. I mean, you look at that poster, you see all the famous names and you see the soldier with a rifle and you figure This Shit Is Gonna Rock, right? You have to understand, Saving Private Ryan rocked motherfuckers worlds six or seven months prior, so lots of people figured it was gonna be All-Star American Asskicking vol. 2 in this motherfucker. But instead they got a Terrence Malick picture and you Just Fucking Know most people didn't know or cared to know what the fuck a Terrence Malick was.
They didn't know what to make of all those shots of nature or of all of that fruity narration asking about What Is This Evil Where Does It Come From, and what's with the lack of Payback Time moments where we see a Jap's head getting blasted open by a BAR for sniping my friend (he was gonna get married to his sweetheart as soon as the war was over, goddammit!)? Where's the overall feeling of America Fuck Yeah? Shit, George Clooney is in this fuckin' movie, and I can only imagine all the Dr. Ross/Seth Gecko fans getting pissed when they realized The Peacemaker wasn't showing up until the end, and only for a couple of minutes, at that. I don't think the uninterrupted hour or so of non-stop Awesome Ownage was going to make it up for them either, I think the movie lost them by the time the soldiers arrive on the beach and not a single round was fired in the process.
I'm planning to watch the extended version of The New World soon, then I plan to finally get around to watching The Tree of Life (at a cheaper price than fifteen-fuckin-dollars), but as far as his first three films go, The Thin Red Line is definitely my favorite. Even if his latest isn't as good, fuck man, he's already made 3 great films, one better than the other. He has nothing to prove other than you don't need weed to get your senses owned by a Terrence Malick joint -- and he already proved that shit with movie #1, so there.
In conclusion, any movie that features Nick Nolte going Nicolas Cage on Casey Jones while shit's exploding in the background is a masterpiece in my book.