Malick’s first film since Days of Heaven is a departure from that one and Badlands which both dealt with displaced young couples in rural America who are ultimately doomed because society cannot accept their independence in their impoverished status.
In this dramatisation of the James Jones novel about the Guadalcanal campaign, the equivalent male characters are shown to be cannon fodder (one white woman only appears in flashback). The appalling waste involved in taking one hill to satisfy the glory demands of the higher command brings out the futility of war. As always Malick meditates on existence and lingers on the beauty of nature in the midst of the carnage.
This is a long film which many critics consider the best film concerning World War II. It certainly qualifies as the most visually and aurally beautiful.
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