Screen time in 'The Thin Red Line' -- We investigate the untimely deaths of big names in the Terrence Malick's masterpiece, including Sean Penn, John Cusack, and George Clooney

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They say every man fights his own war, and in Terrence Malick’s WWII opus, The Thin Red Line, well, they’re right. For a few actors, this war is three hours of grisly combat and hypnotic voice-overs. But for most of the big names who fill out Malick’s muddy ranks, it’s over all too quickly, not to mention quietly: Some bite the dust without uttering a word. EW ventured into the multiplex to clock this unconscionable waste of human life.

NICK NOLTE Scenes: 12 Sample dialogue: ”We’re going to take that hill!” Est. screen time: 25 min. 6 sec. The horror: Nolte rants, roars, and generally behaves like a man obsessed — with winning an Oscar.

SEAN PENN Scenes: 17 Sample dialogue: ”What difference do you think you can make, one man in the middle of all this madness?” Est. screen time: 24 min. 39 sec. The horror: Penn’s famed temper goes underutilized. If only the Japanese were shooting photos.

JOHN CUSACK Scenes: 5 Sample dialogue: ”Sir, these men need water.” Est. screen time: 14 min. 24 sec. The horror: Watching Cusack in combat, it’s hard not to recall images of Lloyd Dobler kickboxing in Say Anything.

JOHN TRAVOLTA Scenes: 1 Sample dialogue: ”There’s always someone watching you like a hawk.” Est. screen time: 3 min. 55 sec. The horror: He thinks this is going to overshadow his role in A Civil Action?

GEORGE CLOONEY Scenes: 1 Sample dialogue: ”We are like a family, and a family can have only one head: the father.” Est. screen time: 1 min. 23 sec. The horror: He doesn’t even play a medic! Refund!

JARED LETO Scenes: 1 Sample dialogue: (Chews gum) Pause. (Shakes head) Pause. Est. screen time: 1 min. 46 sec. The horror: The film is robbed of its only teen idol. The younger set goes AWOL and heads for Varsity Blues.

The Thin Red Line

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  • Terrence Malick