Anti-war films have a special place in cinematic history and viewers’ affection, with each generation laying claim to the most poignant.  Recently released on DVD, this overlooked classic contains such understated intensity you won’t grasp its effect until the credits roll.

Andrew Marton’s The Thin Red Line (1964) follows a WWII recruit struggling to accept the inhumanity of war.  Facing alien territory and guerrilla tactics during the Guadalcanal Campaign, a rebellious private (Keir Dullea) spars with his dutiful sergeant (Jack Warden).

The psychological depth of this film’s narrative keeps you gripped as biting dialogue penetrates the conflicted mind of Dullea’s character.  His emotional performance is a grim depiction of a conflicted soul, evident in powerful scenes such as his first kill.

Surprisingly large-scale battle scenes are also a particular highlight, with realistic fighting and expansive sets for the time.  A frantic final battle reaches a satisfying conclusion.

This film’s place in the development of the war genre is clear, with influential references in later films such as Platoon (1986).  Holding its own alongside the nineties remake, The Thin Red Line is a compact marvel whose emphasis on human cost is ahead of its time.

The Thin Red Line is out on DVD now. USA, Cert 12, 95 mins, English