Glisten Effect
Editorial Reviews
Scoreboard Forum
Viewer Ratings
     1. The Tomorrow War
    2. Luca
   3. F9: The Fast Saga
  4. The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard
 5. A Quiet Place: Part II
6. Cruella
         1. Alice in Wonderland
        2. Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker
       3. LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring
      4. Solo: A Star Wars Story
     5. Justice League
    6. Gladiator
   7. Harry Potter: Sorcerer's Stone
  8. Spider-Man
 9. How to Train Your Dragon
10. Alice Through the Looking Glass
Home Page
The Thin Red Line
Album Cover Art
1999 BMG/RCA
2019 La-La Land
Album 2 Cover Art
Co-Composed, Co-Arranged, and Co-Produced by:

Conducted and Compiled by:
Gavin Greenaway

Orchestrated by:
Bruce Fowler
Yvonne S. Moriarty

Additional Music by:
John Powell
Francesco Lupica

Co-Arranged by:
Klaus Badelt
Labels Icon
BMG/RCA Victor
(January 12th, 1999)

La-La Land Records
(February 5th, 2019)
Availability Icon
The 1999 BMG/RCA album was a regular U.S. release, with the additional album including the Melanesian chants from the film released a few months later. The 2019 La-La Land album is limited to 3,500 copies and available initially for $60 through soundtrack specialty outlets.
Nominated for an Academy Award.
Also See Icon

Decorative Nonsense
(inverts site colors)

Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you appreciated the restrained and brooding atmosphere of the music as you heard it in the film, for The Thin Red Line is not a score to effectively approach without context.

Avoid it... if you expect any of the score's meandering themes to combine with the Melanesian songs featured in the film to form a clear and compelling narrative beyond the work's blunted demeanor.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 1/27/99, REVISED 8/24/20
The Thin Red Line: (Hans Zimmer/Various) Terrence Malick's brilliant imagery was absent from Hollywood for the twenty years prior to 1998's The Thin Red Line, a film loosely based on the same 1962 autobiographical novel by James Jones that inspired a more faithful and traditional 1964 adaptation to the screen. The story of one moment in the World War II battle at Guadalcanal is painfully explored by Malick with his typical sense of intellectual contemplation and visceral stimulation. Above all, The Thin Red Line is a beautiful film, as are most of Malick's visions. Unfortunately, in the process of bringing his glorious imagery to a story, he typically bundles many of his films' other attributes, and his editing has always been suspect. Nobody doubts the quality of the first two hours of The Thin Red Line, but after the battle for the hill central to the film's plot is finished, Malick's plotline loses all cohesion. A series of cameos by major stars distracts from the power of the film's message. The frantic battle sequences and ultra-realistic displays of nerves and bravery differ from Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan from earlier in the same year, inferior in a brutally honest and technical sense, but the same lack of romantic gloss permeates both films. One other aspect of Malick's films that typically suffers is the original score, which more often than not is badly rearranged or replaced by the director without much logical thought. To tolerate Malick's methodology, a composer has to be prepared for this eventually and write music according to the anticipatory chopping that will commence in the days just before the film's release. James Horner learned this lesson the hard way with The New World in 2005, with much of his superior work replaced nonsensically by classical music. In retrospect, Hans Zimmer handled Malick in a much better fashion for The Thin Red Line, despite the fact that the director predictably rearranged Zimmer's work up to the last moment. "I'm always surprised by the reaction I get to The Thin Red Line," Zimmer said in 2001. "I know it's good, but not many people have heard it."

As a composer, if you approach a Malick film with hard synchronization points in mind, you're doomed to frustration. Studio chairman Mike Medavoy said of Zimmer's contribution, "It's not a traditional score," however, and that's why it worked. Zimmer instead scored The Thin Red Line loosely, composing between three and four hours of music for the film and allowing Malick to have a field day with the recordings. "A musician has a very good sense of rhythm and sometimes of the lines, the voice of a line, the narration should be like a song," Zimmer stated. "Terry sees himself very much as my lyrist. When you don't have the mortar shells going off, I create this sort of sense of silence and in a peculiar way I've been trying to create normal silence or started something that you can just observe and maybe you get drawn in." Some of the scenes had particular cues written for them, but these ideas were typically misplaced in the final edit of the film anyway. The only reason this technique actually worked to a degree in the film was due to Malick's need for music that was as visceral as the film, conveying a consistent sense of brooding and gloomy atmosphere that could be easily swapped between scenes. The many hours of music that Zimmer wrote for The Thin Red Line did contain motifs for individual characters and overarching ideas for the soldiers' fight for survival and uncertainty about their surroundings. The motifs for the characters ultimately prevailed in the film, for the most part, but they were completely lost on the original album for the score. Vice versa is the main survival theme, which was not totally realized for the scene it was meant for in the film but makes a grand statement in the track "Journey to the Line" and supplies power to the broader marching and battle sequences. The theme for uncertainty is a meandering set of note pairs often accompanied by wishy-washy whole notes of despair on top. It's a theme that permeates the score in full but never really evolves to a greater purpose. The resoundingly growling bass theme for Nick Nolte's commanding officer is perhaps the most memorable character idea, only heard prominently once on the original album in "The Coral Atoll" but revealed with several varying levels of animosity throughout the first third of longer presentations.

Secondary motifs supplied by Zimmer for The Thin Red Line extended to Jim Caviezel's principal Witt character, whose vaguely optimistic and steady theme is both soothing and maddeningly static in development throughout the score. For Ben Chaplin's reminiscing Bell character, Zimmer explores a more lyrical and romantic period theme over a pair of major cues. Unfortunately, in terms of definitive style, Zimmer's score has little focus and relies on purely atmospheric meanderings to convey its sense of respect and fear. The composer said, "This is literally about making a very clear statement. It's more much along this sort of philosophical lines, actually." Restrained in every cue except the famous "Journey to the Line," the score differs from John Williams' similarly stark score for Saving Private Ryan in that it makes no attempt at patriotism or a noble heart. It is a defeated, slow, and ambient expression of battered hope and emotional trauma. The score's greatest weakness is its extremely laborious, aimless pacing and extremely repetitive, simple structures, and yet it is this exact set of attributes that made the music suitable for Malick's alterations. The instrumentation and thematic structures do carry some continuity throughout The Thin Red Line, but not necessarily to positive ends. A number of specialty instruments are employed by Zimmer, though their roles are somewhat diminished in the final mix. The Taiko drums are the most prominent of these, but their mixing varies significantly between scenes within the film and on album. The more surreal contributions by John Powell and Francesco Lupica, which do punctuate key moments in the film, offer pronounced use of Tibetan bowls and a deep electronic effect called a "Cosmic Beam." By Malick's request, Zimmer's electronics are largely absent outside of some droning textures provided by Jeff Rona, though it should be noted that the French horns and strings in the popular "Journey to the Line" are mixed with the same brash technique that tends to make most of Zimmer's scores emphasize a sharp, synthetic edge anyway. String layers are the most typical conveyers of emotion, dominating this score with their very long-lined performances of extended notes, and the violins do tend to present the score's few hopeful moments that do exist, as in "Light" and late scenes of loss.

Ratings Icon
Average: 2.98 Stars
***** 2,025 5 Stars
**** 1,583 4 Stars
*** 3,110 3 Stars
** 3,018 2 Stars
* 1,392 1 Stars
  (View results for all titles)

Comments Icon
Read All Start New Thread Search Comments
Favorite Tracks
as - February 20, 2013, at 8:04 p.m.
1 comment  (1288 views)
Powell's Review of Thin Red Line
Charles - November 15, 2009, at 5:56 a.m.
1 comment  (2857 views)
Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review #1
Todd China - May 3, 2009, at 7:11 a.m.
1 comment  (2799 views)
Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review #2
Sean O'Neill - May 3, 2009, at 7:09 a.m.
1 comment  (2205 views)
running music
SobAffongom - August 15, 2008, at 7:30 a.m.
1 comment  (2291 views)
Journey to the Line: greatest track ever! *****+ *NM*
Levente Benedek - August 6, 2006, at 3:51 a.m.
1 comment  (4308 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1999 BMG/RCA Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 58:56
• 1. The Coral Atoll (8:00)
• 2. The Lagoon (8:36)
• 3. Journey to the Line (9:21)
• 4. Light (7:19)
• 5. Beam* (3:44)
• 6. Air (2:21)
• 7. Stone in My Heart (4:28)
• 8. The Village (5:52)
• 9. Silence (5:06)
• 10. God U Tekem Laef Blong Mi (Melanesian song) (1:58)
• 11. Sit Back and Relax** (2:06)
* Composed by John Powell
** Composed by Francesco Lupica
2019 La-La Land Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 263:02

Notes Icon
The insert of the 1999 BMG/RCA album includes no extra information about the score or film. That of the 2019 La-La Land album contains extensive notes about both, though the product inconveniently fails to provide the track listings for the first two CDs on the exterior of the packaging.

Featured Musicians:

Harp: Ellie Choate, Katie Kirkpatrick, & Marcia Dickstein
Concert Master: Endre Granat
Shakahachi Flute: Daniel Kuramoto
Koto: June Kuramoto
Cosmic Beam: Francesco Lupica
Taiko Drums, Tibetan Bowls & Vocal Chants: Johnny Mori
Bassoon: Ken Munday
Taiko Drums, Tibetan Bowls & Tibetan Bells: Emil Richards
Taiko Drums & Tibetan Bells: Danny Yamamoto
Copyright © 1999-2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from The Thin Red Line are Copyright © 1999, 2019, BMG/RCA Victor, La-La Land Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 1/27/99 and last updated 8/24/20.
Reviews Preload Scoreboard decoration Ratings Preload Composers Preload Awards Preload Home Preload Search Preload