The year’s true World War II masterpiece, The Thin Red Line, Terrence Malick’s comeback film (after a twenty-year hiatus from filmmaking) takes place during and around the battle of Guadalcanal, but is in reality far more concentrated on the emotional experience of battle and the impact, poetically invoked here, of human warfare upon individuals and upon nature. Essentially a three-hour, nonnarrative experiment, there are no main characters—just an ensemble of thirty or more figures—and there’s no story—just impressions, experiences, feelings (the complex weft of narrative voices often do not synch up with on-screen personas), and astonishing images. Oh, yeah—it’s based on James Jones’s 1962 novel, though you’d never know it. Lots of stars packed in: Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, George Clooney, Jim Caviezel, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Jared Leto, and Miranda Otto.
Wes Anderson‘s stop-motion terrarium-movie, loosely based on an old Roald Dahl story, is a fast-talking, zesty riot, in which the eponymouse George Clooney-voiced egomaniac hero jeopardizes his tabletop country’s animal denizens by stepping outside of his tamed middle-class life and succumbing to his essential fox-ness. Kids will be dazzled in an analogue kind of way – it’s made of handheld toys more convincingly than the sheeny Toy Story films – and parents will be struck be its grown-up comic timing and the fact that, unlike other films of its kind, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a film that remembers but does not mourn childhood, in all of its cobbled-together, dirt-digging, plan-hatching dizziness. With Meryl Streep.
A girls’ club natural, Out of Sight is better watched once the chatter fades, because there’s not a iota of novelist Elmore Leonard’s snappy banter you can afford to miss. A great, comical neo-noir on one hand, this Steven Soderbergh gift also proves the theory that sex starts in the brain. The pas de deux here, amid a cast of supporting eccentrics, is between Jennifer Lopez’s federal marshal and inveterate bank robber George Clooney; Clooney’s fast-thinking, humane crook knows what he wants from the get-go, but Lopez’s savvy fed—the pop-culture star’s best role by far—struggles mightily between her cop instincts to catch him and haul him back to prison and her desire to ride him like a pony (a yearning every woman in the room will be sharing). Absolutely the best sotto voce flirt talk heard in a movie since, well, maybe ever, and that’s what counts for grown-ups.