Synopsis and Review of The Thin Red Line
Synopsis and Review of The Thin Red Line

Synopsis and Review of The Thin Red Line

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The Thin Red Line is a 1998 drama, history and war genre film, directed by Terrence Malick. The movie stars Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel, Ben Chaplin, George Clooney, and John Cusack. The film is set during World War II and depicts the struggle between American marines and Japanese soldiers for control of Guadalkanal. In this synopsis and review, we will discuss the plot, characters and other aspects of The Thin Red Line.


In 1942, Witt, a military member, chooses to leave his unit and live with the locals in the North Pacific region. Welsh, the first sergeant, finds him and imprisons him on a warship. Since he is deemed unfit for duty, Witt is not allowed to join Welsh’s unit. Eventually, Witt is assigned as a stretcher-bearer for the next mission.

The American marines are fighting in Guadalkanal to gain control of the region. The area is being contested with Japan, who want to use it to establish their power in the Pacific region. A group of young soldiers is brought in to assist the Americans. Private Bell, who left his family behind to fight, Private Doll, who is arrogant, and Captain James Staros, the unit leader, are among those sent to Guadalkanal. They wait for the warship that will take them to their destination, led by Lieutenant Colonel Tall, an old navy man who thinks that this will be his final mission.

When they arrive on the island, they encounter the locals who show the influence of Japanese occupation in that area. The Americans locate the key Japanese army location, which is on top of a hill. The Japanese soldiers will shoot anyone who tries to climb up the hill. They plan to attack at sunrise. Several American troops are prepared to take over the key location, but it is not successful.

Lieutenant Colonel Tall then orders Captain John Gaff to find the Japanese soldiers’ position. It is discovered that their numbers have significantly decreased. After receiving Bell’s analysis of the situation, Tall orders his troops to surround the Japanese soldiers’ bunker. Witt willingly joins the unit again to participate in the dangerous mission. They successfully managed to take over the area and the Americans were granted a week’s break. Staros was removed from his duties by Tall since he is deemed unable to handle the mission’s pressure.

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The Packaging of War Storytelling in a Unique Way

The Thin Red Line is unique in that it portrays the soldiers’ psychological side deployed to the warzone. Instead of relying on dialogues, the film uses monologues from its characters. The monologues were presented with a lot of metaphors, making the horror of war more philosophical. The monologues were delivered by several characters, accompanied by low-volume music. The audience can feel the characters’ experience through their monologues. Moreover, the film has flashbacks to show how no soldier wants to be deployed in a war zone.

The adaptation of James Jones’ book, The Thin Red Line, bravely portrayed the other side of war. Not all soldiers are willing to go into dangerous missions. The refusal of duty is also a common part of warfare.


The Thin Red Line is a unique war film as it shows not only the physical but also the psychological struggles faced by soldiers in battle. The monologues from the characters accompanied with low-volume music make an excellent approach in the delivery of the story. If you love war movies that not only show you the intensity of battle but also the psychological effect on soldiers, The Thin Red Line is worth your time.

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Lani Herawati is a film review writer who specializes in providing critical reviews of the latest films in Indonesia. Her writings always provide different views and provide valuable insights for readers.

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