Perhaps I should have reconsidered attending a screening of Contagion while suffering from a cold. My coughs and sneezes may have offered those in my vicinity a whole new level of interactive experience.
Though I enjoyed the topically fascinating film, I was not entirely taken by the script. However, the fantastic cast and impressive direction did well to suppress those niggling doubts.
But what I really want to discuss is Jude Law's attempt at an Australian accent. It's disastrous. Perhaps non-Australians won't appreciate the full extent of its disastrousness, but trust me, disastrous it is. What's interesting, though, is that there doesn't seem to be any reference whatsoever to his character's nationality, which begs the question: why bother? I'm hesitant to suggest that a naturally Australian-accented actor should have been cast in the role. After all, my own opportunity for work in this country would be severely limited if actors were never allowed to play characters with accents that differed from their own. However, if the otherwise talented Mr. Law was incapable of perfecting an Australian cadence, then surely it would have been more prudent to simply make his character English.
In Law's defense, the Aussie drawl does seem to be one of those accents that is simply too difficult for a foreign actor to master. Robert Downey, Jr. came close, and Meryl Streep was moderately successful, but even those two accomplished performers didn't quite nail it. Unfortunately, though, Jude Law's effort has to rank as one of the worst.
Beginning our tour of the Best Picture nominees from 1998, we take a look at...
The Thin Red Line
(based on the novel by James Jones)
Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel, Ben Chaplin, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Elias Koteas, Nick Nolte, John C. Reilly, John Travolta
As Edwin Starr asked and then immediately answered: War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. That seems to be the message in Terrence Malick's meandering The Thin Red Line, a World War II story whose primary focus is the Battle of Guadalcanal. Brigadier General Quintard (Travolta) orders C Company to seize a hill on which the Japanese have set up a bunker. Lt. Colonel Tall (Nolte) is the bad-tempered commanding officer determined to succeed. Captain Staros (Koteas) is the disobedient captain looking out for his men. Private Witt (Caviezel) is the unenthusiastic soldier recently put back into service after going AWOL. Private Bell (Chaplin) is the depressed soldier, only surviving by daydreaming about his wife back home. And that's not even half of the characters we meet and follow. They each have their own back stories and perspectives, but one thing is common to them all - the recognition and disdain of the unpredictability of war.
The artistry within The Thin Red Line is difficult to deny. Assisted by some breathtaking locations - many of which are to be found in Australia, I might add - the cinematography is exquisite. Nature plays a big role in the film and it is captured beautifully. Juxtaposing that beauty are the plentiful components of a bloody war. A violent explosion in the middle of a reedy hill is a gruesomely fascinating image. The stunt team are also to be congratulated for creating incredibly convincing effects. There are moments when it appears the stunt performer is literally in the middle of the explosion. Along with these aesthetically pleasing aspects of the film, there is a cerebral element that gives the picture a sense of poetry. In fact, the voice over narration, which is shared by several characters, is undeniably poetic, complementing the film's prettiest images.
While featuring numerous characters mainly contributes to the film's tangentiality, it does offer the opportunity for a plethora of cameos. In fact, there were many more famous faces that were left out of the final cut. Suffice it to say, the picture features several powerful performances, and due to the nature of the film, many of those performances are far too brief, particularly those of Adrien Brody and John C. Reilly, both of whom I wanted to see more. Also worth individual mention is Jim Caviezel for his pensively touching portrayal.