Elias Koteas did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Captain James 'Bugger' Staros in The Thin Red Line.
be all that effective in The Tree of Life or The New World, and only marginally so in Days of Heaven here I found it engrossing, although it does not hurt that it has an absolutely beautiful score and stunning cinematography.
Another facet that contributes to the The Thin Red Line's success is Malick's does allow time for the actors to find their characters. It is an amazing ensemble with almost every actor making the most of their brief moment, aside from George Clooney who was a bit distracting. Although there are many great performances from better known actors the strongest of them all belongs to a lesser known actor. Elias Koteas is an actor who is always good even though he often is the victim of truly thankless roles. In fact you can see Koteas in such a role also from 98 in the form of Apt Pupil. An interesting thing to note is perhaps Malick's methods is what allowed Koteas his time in the for once, even if it perhaps caused the apparent original lead, Adrien Brody, to be reduced to basically a glorified extra. Koteas though has one of the most substantial roles in the film as he portrays Captain Staros who is leading his men into the front lines against the Japanese who have fortified themselves in the hills.
Koteas technically speaking has a simple enough role in terms of Captain Staros as we mostly know that he is that he's leading men who has probably been with some time, and we briefly hear that he was a lawyer before the War. There really is not much else, but there really does not need to be anything else for Koteas. In the more let's say technical side of his performance Kotes is quite effective in creating Staros's role as the Captain. Something particularly interesting about Koteas's performance is he does not portray Staros is necessarily a great leader, at least in terms of having an absolute command of his unit. Koteas portrays that there is a definite struggle for Staros merely to fulfill his role as a commander of troops, particularly in one scene where he has to desperately remind his men that he's in charge of them. Koteas does not portray him as inadequate due to not being lazy, or even truly weak willed, the truth is Staros just is not the type of soldier the army wants.
Koteas is fantastic in his final scene before he is about to be sent home by his commanding officer. Staros has one last talk with his men, who don't want him to go, but Staros refuses to even launch a formal complaint in regards to his 'honorable' dismissal. Not only that Staros even tells his men that he wants to go. Koteas does not show Staros as being all that defiant in regards to being sent away from his men. Koteas instead portrays a very honest resignation in Staros as more than anything he understands that there's nothing that he really can do. Koteas never for a moment though makes it appear as though Staros is merely being selfish in accepting his fate in the army. Koteas does certainly express a sadness in Staros, but he takes that resignation even further than not confronting the military brass. Koteas portrays that Staros recognizes his own weaknesses as commander, and he does understand that more than anything the life of war is not fitting to his personality.
Staros though is not incompetent though for his men, who he wants to bring through the mission without seeing all of them die. Koteas brings such a quiet emotional intensity in his performance as there is never a question how much Staros understands the severity of his situation. There is so much heart that Koteas brings to his role and most importantly it never feels forced at all. Koteas is so genuine with his performance and his work never feels too maudlin or over the top. Koteas's best scene comes in when Staros is forced to face how he feels when he is ordered by his superior to send his men to attack even though the current situation means they will be slaughtered. Koteas succeeds in bringing the full power of this moment as he does show the strength in Staros. Although Koteas shows that Staros might not have been born to lead, he does powerfully show the strength of Staros as he stands by his convictions no matter the repercussion.
From 1998 there was a particularly large abundance of performances as soldiers during World War II thanks to large ensembles found in both this film and Saving Private Ryan. The greatest performance found between the two though belongs to Elias Koteas. Koteas technically does not even have that much dialogue and unlike a few of the other soldiers in this film he does not have that much narration either. Something is so striking about every close of Koteas throughout the film as he says so much and brings so much emotion to a single reaction, which allows him to thrive particularly well in Malick's style. Koteas's makes Staros's face the face of a simple earthly humanity while the inhumanity of the battle rages on around him, which also allows Koteas to carefully differentiate himself from Jim Caviezel's soulful, but otherworldly performance. There is such a poignancy in every second of Koteas's performance as he gives an unforgettable portrait of a leader's unwavering empathy for the plight of his men.