Reclusive director Terrence Malick's long-awaited return to filmmaking, The Thin Red Line is a beautifully rendered treatise on man and nature, revisiting World War II as few films have. Malick isn't interested in the traditional, linear rhythms of the James Jones novel on which the film is based; instead, he fashions an atypically unfocussed and philosophical war story, using the material as a blueprint. In the process, the director reveals the complex hopes and fears of men who are often portrayed as mere patriots in a fight they understand and accept. Some of the star cameos -- from John Travolta and George Clooney, among others -- may feel like just that: characters are intended to make transient but memorable appearances. Also uncharacteristic of war pictures is John Toll's lush cinematography, which offers the limitless beauty of the South Pacific as a startling backdrop to the folly of humanity. With The Thin Red Line, Malick creates an anti-war movie that is as intelligent and visually beautiful as it is unique.