Twenty years after his previous film, reclusive director Terrence Malick recruits an all-star cast to tell the story of how the US infantry took the Pacific island of Guadalcanal in 1942. Moody and majestic, this is a true epic, with moments of quiet contemplation giving way to spectacular, ear-splitting battles. Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, John Travolta, George Clooney, Adrien Brody, Nick Nolte and John Cusack are just a few of the names on the impressive roll-call.
Great acting from a star-studded ensemble cast illuminates this philosophical war film that examines, in sonorous voice-over, the meaning of it all, and how 'this great evil' that was World War Two came into being.
In the images of the film, director Terrence Malick seeks to give an impression of conflict and of paradise lost; but, at 175 minutes, the approach makes this a long slog, even if restless mainstream audiences will find the film consistently redeemed by the quality of its performances, especially those of Sean Penn, Nick Nolte and the less well-known Elias Koteas.
Just when you think it's all over, though, the story goes on for another half-hour, so that one of the major characters can fly against his beliefs and get himself killed.