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A kaleidoscopic evocation of the experience of combat that ranks as one of the greatest war films ever produced. Taking place during the World War II battle for Guadalcanal.

The Thin Red Line, contrasts the beautiful with the horrible, features stunning landscapes and beautifully executed shots on the one hand, but on the other, shows the fears and emotions of a group of soldiers fighting the conflict of Guadalcanal during the Second World War. The movie was released alongside another modern classic war film in the same year, Steven Spielberg‘s Saving Private Ryan (1998), however, the two movies couldn’t be more different from another. While Saving Private Ryan got its message across through the grain bleached handheld cinematography by Janus Kaminski, The Thin Red Line‘s focuses on painterly, nearly poetic images. Thus this doesn’t mean, that there is no motion in the image. In contrary, the camera seems to be moving most of the time, helping the viewer to be immersed in the action, giving a feeling of being right there, fighting alongside the soldiers.
The immersion of the viewer even goes a step further, by jumping into some well placed POV shots that help tighten the action. In one occasion, the camera moves through the grass, similar to the American soldiers trying to hide from bullets, even diving into the grass, in another occasion, the camera even chases down an enemy fighter. In comparison, this scenes of savage combat, ripping apart bodies and minds, and the tropical island of stunning beauty, flowing water and light rays, are an essential part of the movie – very well seen by the peaceful opening shots of the movie and the following immediate cut into a dark prison cell inside an American troop ship, where Witt is confronted by Sgt. Welsh. The walls are dark, everything is dark, except the illuminated faces of the AWOL gone soldier and his superior – the harsh toplight symbolizing the oppressiveness of the military existence as opposed to the community of Melanesian islanders.
Not suggesting, that nature is good and mankind is evil, the movie moreover does not see them as separate entities. Furthermore, nature is seen as the origin of both beauty and ugliness, of both peace and war. Everything is coming from the same source and therefore cannot be easily separated.

“One of the things that struck us immediately during the Guadalcanal scout was how loaded with color this tropical environment was, after all, we’re used to seeing black-and-white newsreels of WWII combat. At one point, we did talk about shooting the picture in black-and-white, but that notion didn’t really take hold. The idea of all of this violence taking place in such a rich and colorful environment was very striking and we felt that representing the story this way wouldn’t be accurate.” (1)

Cinematographer: JOHN TOLL
Year: 1998
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

The Thin Red Line
Next Film: Alien
Previous Film: Whiplash

(1) John Toll, ASC, Interview by Stephen Pizzello

February 25, 2018

If you like these Stills, make sure to buy the movie, it is our absolutely highest recommendation.

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