John Toll

Criterion Files

In anticipation of Terrence Malick’s much-buzzed and much-argued-about Tree of Life, Adam and Landon are doing a two-part series on Malick’s films in the Criterion Collection. Part 1 – The Thin Red Line. The Thin Red Line (1998) is a film that accomplished many things. Least of which is the fact that, as the film was released twenty years after his previous completed work Days of Heaven, it established Terrence Malick as still a working filmmaker. While Malick had developed and abandoned several projects in the two decades that straddled his second and third feature films, the notoriously private director temporarily retired to France and workshopped a variety of screenplays and stage plays that, for one reason or another, never manifested. Though Malick’s sparse filmography hardly grants him a persona of being a prolific artist, his twenty-year filmmaking “hiatus” was never a hiatus at all, but was instead brimming with activity for potential projects. The Thin Red Line, then, should be thought of not as a decided return to filmmaking which assumes that the film is either a project twenty years in the making or the only thing he came across in twenty years worth making (as an academic who almost completed his doctorate and as a working journalist before becoming a filmmaker, part of the mystery surrounding the very private Malick is that filmmaking is simply one of several trades that define him – he’s like a far less public James Franco). The Thin Red Line may be more […]


The Adjustment Bureau, loosely adapted from a Philip K. Dick story, takes on one of science fiction’s stock themes. Fans of Lost, for example, or Minority Report or The Matrix will recognize the classic struggle between fate and free will at the heart of the picture, the clash between the universe’s plan for us and our desire to carve out our own destiny. It’s familiar, quasi-religious territory rendered with stylish flair by writer-director George Nolfi and cinematographer John Toll. Set in a Manhattan rife with dapper henchmen in fedoras and swanky buildings with long marble foyers, captured in sweeping camera movements and symmetrical compositions, the film has the look of a production of weighty, spiritual import. Yet that stylistic edge services a love story that starts flat and never gets going. It’s a forced and altogether empty conjoining of two moderately likable, exceedingly bland individuals that inspires none of the deep, transcendent passion required of a narrative so immersed in spirituality.

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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.12.2014

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