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The Thin Red Line (1998)

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The Thin Red Line
Film Poster
Country Flag of the United States.jpg United States
Directed by Terrence Malick
Release Date December 25, 1998
Language English
Tok Pisin
Studio Fox 2000 Pictures
Phoenix Pictures
Distributor 20th Century Fox
Main Cast
Character Actor
1st Sgt. Edward Welsh Sean Penn
Pvt. Robert E. Lee Witt Jim Caviezel
Cpl. Geoffrey Fife Adrien Brody
Pvt. Jack Bell Ben Chaplin
Capt. John Gaff John Cusack
Sgt. Keck Woody Harrelson
Capt. James Staros Elias Koteas
2nd Lt. William Whyte Jared Leto
PFC Don Doll Dash Mihok
Pvt. Tills Tim Blake Nelson

The Thin Red Line is the 1998 World War II film directed by Terrence Malick and is the second movie adaptation of the James Jones novel, the first being a 1964 film of the same name. This film features a very accurate, almost complete arsenal of genuine WWII Japanese weapons, a stark contrast to the original film where not a single Japanese weapon was seen. The film is a fictional account of engagement by the U.S. Army to capture an entrenched Japanese position during the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II. The majority of the film was shot in Queensland, Australia, in the South Pacific, far more accurate to the location of the Solomon Islands than the original film's filming in Spain. One of the notable characters in the film is Cpt. Staros (Elias Koteas), an intelligent, sensitive Army captain who refuses to send his men to their certain death on a futile frontal assault on a fortified Japanese position, which puts him at odds with the ambitious Lt. Col. Tall (Nick Nolte). Other notable characters include the cynical and shrewd 1st. Sgt Welsh (Sean Penn), Pvt. Bell (Ben Chaplin) who is heavily devoted to his wife, and Pvt. Witt (Jim Caviezel), a deserter who hates the Army, but loves the men of Charlie Company enough to rejoin them during the battle. The film's title derives a quote from Jones's book which reads, "they discover the thin red line that divides the sane from the mad... and the living from the dead..." Despite its seven Academy Award nominations, this film is often overlooked due to its release in the same year as Steven Spielberg's World War II film Saving Private Ryan.

The following weapons were used in the film The Thin Red Line:


Allied Weapons


M1 Garand

The M1 Garand is the primary rifle of Charlie Company in the film and is used by Pvt. Witt (Jim Caviezel), Pvt. Bell (Ben Chaplin), Pvt. Coombs (Matt Doran), Pfc. Beade (Nick Stahl), Pvt. Ash (Thomas Jane) and Pfc. Doll (Dash Mihok).

M1 Garand - .30-06
Pfc. Beade (Nick Stahl) holds the M1 Garand as Charlie Company lands on the beach on Guadalcanal.
Over-the-shoulder view of Pfc. Doll (Dash Mihok) firing his M1 Garand at Japanese soldiers carrying a machine gun.
Doll's M1 Garand pinged out the empty en-bloc clip that hits his helmet.
Pvt. Witt (Jim Caviezel) and another soldier fire their M1 Garands.
A shocked Pvt. Bell (Ben Chaplin) with his M1 Garand looks at Sgt. Keck (Woody Harrelson).
Pfc. Doll (Dash Mihok) emerges from the tall grass to fire at the MG position.
Pvt. Witt (Jim Caviezel) fires his M1 Garand during the assault on Hill 210.
Pvt. Bell (Ben Chaplin) with his M1 Garand during the assault on Hill 210.
Close-up of an empty M1 Garand chamber.
Two soldiers cover a Japanese prisoner with M1 Garands.
Pvt. Ash (Thomas Jane) with the M1 Garand resting on his leg while holding an M1911A1.
Pvt. Coombs (Matt Doran) with an M1 Garand crouching in the river.
M1 Garand with M1 bayonet - .30-06
Pvt. Bell (Ben Chaplin) in rage fires his M1 Garand, fitted with a bayonet.
Pvt. Witt (Jim Caviezel) shoots a charging Japanese soldier with his M1 Garand, fitted with a bayonet, during the assault on the village.

M1 Carbine

M1 Carbine rifles are anachronistically used by the sergeants and officers in the film including Sgt. Keck (Woody Harrelson), Sgt. McCron (John Savage), Cpt. Gaff (John Cusack), Cpt. Staros (Elias Koteas), and 2nd Lt. Whyte (Jared Leto). M1 Carbines were issued only after the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Korean War Era M1 Carbine, with Birch Stock, Adjustable sight, bayonet lug, and twin magazine pouch - .30 Carbine
Capt. Staros (Elias Koteas) has an M1 Carbine slung over his back. Note the carbine has on the barrel an anachronistic bayonet lug found on the M1 from the Korean War and on.
M1 Carbine - .30 Carbine
2nd Lt. Whyte (Jared Leto) with an M1 Carbine. Note how the officer second to the right has a mark on his helmet, which indicates he peeled off the insignia - common practice to avoid being targeted by snipers. No other officer in the film wears insignia.
Capt. Staros (Elias Koteas) with his M1 Carbine.
Sgt. McCron (John Savage) contemplates the loss of his entire squad with his M1 Carbine rested on his shoulder.
Cpt. Gaff (John Cusack) with his M1 Carbine.
Cpt. Gaff (John Cusack) fires his M1 Carbine at Japanese soldiers.

Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mk. III*

A native scout is briefly seen with a British Lee-Enfield No.1 Mk.III* rifle during the landing on Guadalcanal. Another scout carries an SMLE in a deleted scene.

Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mark III* - .303 British
The scout (background; without a helmet) with his rifle over his shoulder.
The striking magazine and straight bolt-handle of the carried SMLE are seen in center.

M1903A1 Springfield

A sniper (Mickey Rourke) in a deleted scene has a scoped M1903A1 Springfield rifle.

M1903A1 Springfield sniper rifle fitted with a 7.8x Unertl scope - .30-06 Springfield. This rifle was used in Letters from Iwo Jima.
"I remember you."
The sniper encounters Pvt. Witt with the Springfield resting on his shoulder.
After a conversation with Pvt. Witt he sets off again.

Submachine Guns

M1928A1 Thompson

M1928A1 Thompsons are carried by Pvt. Dale (Arie Verveen), 1st Sgt. Welsh (Sean Penn), Sgt. Storm (John C. Reilly) among other U.S. soldiers.

M1928A1 Thompson with 30-round magazine - .45 ACP
Sgt. Storm (John C. Reilly) with an M1928A1 Thompson during a reconnaissance patrol.
1st Sgt. Welsh (Sean Penn) searches the tall grass with his M1928A1 Thompson at the ready.
Pvt. Dale (Arie Verveen) with an M1928A1 Thompson.
Pvt. Dale (Arie Verveen) lays down suppressing fire.
1st Sgt. Welsh (Sean Penn) fires his Thompson during the assault on Hill 262.
1st Sgt. Welsh (Sean Penn) wades through the river carrying his Thompson.

Machine Guns

Browning M2HB

Two Browning M2HB machine guns can be seen mounted onboard the Victory Class transport ship.

Browning M2HB - .50 BMG
One M2HB with a shield being checked by a sailor in the background.

BAR M1918A2

Cpl. Queen (David Harrod) keeps a Browning Automatic Rifle M1918A2 slung over his back, which he carries along with his Winchester 1897. Pvt. Sico (Robert Roy Hofmo) also carries one before he fakes sickness to avoid combat.

Browning Automatic Rifle M1918A2 - .30-06
Cpl. Queen (David Harrod) with a Browning Automatic Rifle slung over his back as Cpl. Fife (Adrien Brody) looks up.
Pvt. Sico (Robert Roy Hofmo) clutches a Browning Automatic Rifle.
Cpl. Queen (David Harrod) with his BAR, now with his Winchester slung on his back.
A soldier to the right lugs a BAR over his shoulders.


Winchester 1897

Cpl. Queen (David Harrod) is seen using a Winchester 1897 shotgun, along with a BAR, although he is seen firing the Winchester rather than the BAR.

Winchester 1897 Trench - 12 Gauge
Cpl. Queen (David Harrod) with his Winchester 1897 shotgun in the high grass.
Cpl. Queen (David Harrod) orders Japanese soldiers out of a bunker with his Winchester 1897 shotgun.
Cpl. Queen (David Harrod) holds his Winchester 1897 shotgun on Japanese prisoners.
Cpl. Queen (David Harrod) fires his Winchester 1897 shotgun at a Japanese soldier in a tree.


Colt M1911A1

Pfc. Doll (Dash Mihok) steals an M1911A1 hanging from a bunk in the ship carrying Charlie Company to the island. He notably uses it when he charges a Japanese machine gun emplacement and fires it at them. Basically, every other U.S. soldier also has an M1911A1 as their sidearm, although only a few soldiers such as Captain Gaff (John Cusack) are seen using them.

Colt M1911A1 - .45 ACP
An M1911A1 and holster hanging off a bunk before being stolen by Pfc. Doll (Dash Mihok).
Pfc. Doll (Dash Mihok) fires the M1911A1 at a Japanese machine gun emplacement.
Pfc. Doll (Dash Mihok) fires the M1911A1 at charging Japanese soldiers.
In a deleted scene, Pfc. Doll (Dash Mihok) fires his M1911A1 in the air.
Capt. Bosche's (George Clooney) holstered Colt during the last briefing.


M1A1 Flamethrower

One U.S. soldier is seen holding an M1A1 Flamethrower after Hill 262 is captured. He later uses it to torch the camp.

M1A1 Flamethrower
A U.S. soldier in the background to the left is seen holding an M1A1 Flamethrower.
The soldier uses his Flamethrower to torch a straw hut.

Mk. II Hand Grenade

Several U.S. soldiers are seen using yellow MK II Hand Grenades. Before having the more appropriate olive-drab color, Mk. II grenades used on Guadalcanal were painted bright yellow to show they were high-explosive. At one point we see Sgt. Keck (Woody Harrelson) straightens the folds on the pin of his grenade, which proves to be a fatal mistake on his behalf when the pin pulls too easily while still attached to his belt.

Mk. II hand grenade
A Mk. II grenade hanging on Capt. Staros' (Elias Koteas) jacket.
A grenade hanging on Pvt. Sico's (Robert Roy Hofmo) jacket as he fakes sickness to avoid fighting.
Sgt. Keck (Woody Harrelson) tries to pull a grenade off his belt but grabs it by the pin. The writer clearly does not know how grenades work. Since the grenade is hooked to his belt by the lever, which flies off when the pin is pulled, the grenade would have simply dropped to his feet instead. To make this scene work, the grenade here is attached to his belt with a wire.
Sgt. Keck (Woody Harrelson) realizes how screwed he is.

Oerlikon 20 mm Cannon

On the ship under the command of Brig. Gen. Quintard (John Travolta) is a pair of Oerlikon 20mm Cannon mounted on a Mk 20 Mod 2 gun mount.

Twin Mark 4 Oerlikon L70 cannons in a Mark 24 mounting with Mark 14 Gyro Gunsight - 20x110mm RB
A pair of Oerlikon 20mm cannons. The left-hand drum incorrectly has no markings.
Another view of the same gun between Colonel Gordon Tall (Nick Nolte) and Brig. Gen. Quintard (John Travolta).

Bofors 40 mm

On the ship under the command of Brig. Gen. Quintard (John Travolta) is a Bofors 40mm twin mount.

Bofors 40mm L/60 twin mounting - 40×311mmR
Twin Mounted Bofors Gun circled in red.
Bofors 40mm L/60 AA gun in a wheeled trailer mounting - 40x311mmR
A wheeled trailer mounting Bofors at Henderson Field.
The Bofors on the right next to Capt. Bosche.

M101A1 Howitzer

U.S. soldiers fire M101A1 Howitzers during the attack on Hill 210.

M101A1 Howitzer - 105x372mm
An M101A1 is seen behind Brig. Gen. Quintard (John Travolta) onboard the transport ship.
U.S. soldiers fire the Howitzer what makes Colonel Gordon Tall (Nick Nolte) wince.
Another Howitzer in the background also being fired.

Axis Weapons


Arisaka Type 38

Japanese soldiers are seen mainly using Arisaka Type 38 rifles. A few Arisakas are carried by U.S. soldiers after the Hill 262 battle, as well, Pfc. Beade (Nick Stahl) in a deleted scene.

Arisaka Type 38 - 6.5x50mm
Two Japanese soldiers start a Banzai charge with their Arisaka Type 38 rifles.
A line of Japanese soldiers hold Arisaka rifles with fixed Type 30 bayonets awaiting the American assault.
Another Japanese soldier is gunned down while holding his Arisaka.
An unused Arisaka Type 38 lays at the top of a trench at Hill 262. Note the under-mounted sling swivel that identifies it as a Type 38. Also worth mentioning is the rifle in the background which has an opened chamber.
U.S. soldiers exchange captured Arisakas, bayonets, and swords for goods.
A Japanese soldier fires his Ariskaka Type 38.

Arisaka Type 99

Some Japanese soldiers are seen using Arisaka Type 99 rifles with monopods.

Arisaka Type 99 short rifle with monopod - 7.7x58mm
A Japanese soldier firing an Arisaka Type 99 equipped with the monopod.
A running Japanese soldier fires his Arisaka Type 99 at Pvt. Witt (Jim Caviezel) as he flees. The side-mounted sling swivel is visible.
A Japanese soldier holds his Arisaka Type 99 on Pvt. Witt (Jim Caviezel) trying to get him to surrender.

Machine Guns

Nambu Type 96

The Nambu Type 96 Light Machine Gun is used by Japanese soldiers

Nambu Type 96 without magazine - 6.5x50mm Arisaka
A Japanese soldier fires a Nambu Type 96 through a smoke-screen.
A Japanese soldier tries to defend Hill 262 from the American assault.

Nambu Type 99

Japanese soldiers are also seen using Nambu Type 99 Light Machine Guns in the film.

Nambu Type 99 - 7.7x58mm
A Japanese soldier fires a Nambu Type 99 from the machine gun emplacement.
A Japanese soldier goes Rambo and fires a Nambu Type 99 from the machine gun emplacement.

Nambu Type 3

Japanese soldiers are seen using Nambu Type 3 Heavy Machine Guns in the film.

Nambu Type 3 - 6.5x50mm SR
A Type 3 HMG looking out of a machine gun emplacement on Hill 210.
A Japanese soldier prepares to fire the HMG at the Americans.
The Japanese soldier firing his Type 3 before being overrun.
Japanese soldiers carry the Type 3 through the forest. Note the feed strips.


Nambu Type 14

The issued sidearm of the Japanese Imperial Army is the Nambu Type 14 Pistol. One soldier is seen using it to commit suicide when refusing capture after Hill 262 is taken. Later in the film, we see Pfc. Doll (Dash Mihok) showing off a Nambu pistol to fellow soldiers in a personnel transport truck, likely taken off a dead Japanese soldier on the Hill.

Nambu Type 14 - 8mm
A sitting Japanese lowers pistol as a sign to surrender what is misinterpreted by the U.S. next to him because another GI in the foreground is hit. Note the position of the cocking piece, which is locked back.
A Japanese soldier shoots himself in the chest with his Nambu Type 14 pistol.
Pfc. Doll (Dash Mihok) shows off a captured Nambu Type 14 pistol and his chums are celebrating, all except a glum-looking Sgt. Becker (Don Harvey) on the far right.


Type 97 Hand Grenade

Some Japanese soldiers can briefly be seen using Type 97 Hand Grenades.

Type 97 Hand Grenade
A Japanese soldier doesn't want to surrender and prepares to commit suicide.

Type 98 20 mm AA/AT Gun

A Type 98 20mm cannon is seen in the Japanese camp during the assault on Hill 262.

Type 98 AA gun at the Chinese People's Revolution Military Museum in Beijing - 20x142mm
The Type 98 AA/AT gun is seen on the left as Pvt. Bell shoots a Japanese soldier attacking him with a Katana.

Type 97 81 mm Infantry Mortar

The Type 97 Mortar is seen on Hill 262.

Type 97 Infantry Mortar - 81 mm (3.2 in)
The mortar among rounded up desperate Japanese prisoners.
The overturned morar in the jumbled camp in the aftermath.

Type 38 75 mm Field Gun

A Type 38 75 mm field gun is also seen on Hill 262.

Type 38 Field Gun - 75x294mm R
A front view of the field gun to the right during the intensive fight for the Japanese camp.
The gun seen on the left as Colonel Gordon Tall (Nick Nolte) needs to talk with Capt. Staros (Elias Koteas) after the assault.
Colonel Gordon Tall (Nick Nolte) thinks about what happened which allows a rear view of the Type 38.

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