Terrence Malick‘s adaptation of James Jones’ 1962 novel presents a fictional account of the Battle of Mount Austen, an engagement between United States and Imperial Japanese forces in the hills near the Matanikau River during the Guadalcanal Campaign of World War II. The events leading up to, during and after the battle are seen primarily through the eyes of Private Witt (Jim Caveziel), a philosopher-soldier who has no interest in serving in the army, and some of his fellow warriors in C Company, 25th Infantry Division, including Private Bell (Ben Chaplin), First Sergeant Welsh (Sean Penn), the gruff Lieutenant Colonel Tall (Nick Nolte) and the compassionate Captain Staros (Elias Koteas). In true Malick style, “The Thin Red Line” (his first film in 20 years, following “Days of Heaven”) is more of a cinematic tone poem than a straightforward narrative, offering stunning images of both beauty and horror as much of the film’s existential ponderings are explored via character voiceover. The first cut reportedly took nine months to assemble and ran over five hours; the performances of Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Sheen, Gary Oldman, Bill Pullman, Lukas Haas, Jason Patric, Viggo Mortensen and Mickey Rourke ended up being cut completely. – IFC Staff