Miracle at St. Anna
Miracle at St. Anna
is director Spike Lee's response to Clint Eastwood's two recent World War II
films (Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima).
Lee got into a very vocal
tabloid war of words with Eastwood about the fact that those films had no
black soldiers (the two filmmakers have since apparently made up). To
this supposed slight, Lee's film centers on the first black battalion to
fight in World War II - the legendary Buffalo Soldiers.
The movie is alternately
exciting, fascinating, scary, fantastical, boring and more than occasionally
overly preachy. It is also way too long, over two and a half hours.
Admission time here.
As a movie-goer, I rarely like war movies. Some more than others,
obviously, but as a genre it generally leaves me rather cold.
Miracle at St. Anna only partially gets past this bias - though it is a
stunningly made film.
Frankly, keeping up the
comparison that Lee himself made, Miracle at St. Anna is a much
better film than Flags of Our Fathers (though not because of the
color of the soldiers' skin). I haven't seen Letters From Iwo Jima,
so I can't make a comparison, though I did always hear it was by far the
better of the two Eastwood films.
However, the most
interesting part of Miracle at St. Anna was the opening frame story
which took place nearly 40 years after the war ended. An older post
office worker - a quiet, law-abiding type - suddenly shoots a customer dead.
He will not explain himself and when the police are searching his home they
find out that he had been a decorated soldier in World War II. They
also find a priceless European religious artifact hidden in his closet.
Who is this man? Why did he suddenly snap and kill an apparent
stranger? How did he get a piece of a 400 year old statue which had
been bombed by the Nazis? A young reporter (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is
determined to find out - and the explanation he gets is played out in
flashbacks to the War.
As the story unfolds it
is interesting and it also vaguely touches on a real and unimaginable
tragedy - a Nazi slaughter of Italian civilians at the church named in the
title, which is shown in all it's horror during the film. However the
main characters of the film did not experience this horrific war crime, it
was a story told to them after the fact by a survivor. In fact,
despite some appalling moments, way too much of Miracle at St. Anna
is just about four of the buffalo soldiers hiding from Nazis in a small
Tuscan village. There is also a strange subplot about a possibly magic
little Italian boy who becomes the soldiers' responsibility and a slightly
unnecessary love triangle between two of the soldiers and a local woman.
It does not quite live up
to the mystery suggested earlier - in fact the riddle of the statue is
matter-of-factly explained very early on and in the end the movie does not
spell out who the man that was killed had been and why he deserved to die.
Granted, it is not at all difficult to figure out who it was and why he was
killed - however I had to go back and watch the beginning over to have that
Still, Miracle at St.
Anna had some wonderful acting by Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso
and Omar Benson Miller as the soldiers lost behind enemy lines. It
takes a look at World War II from an angle which is not usually explored.
It's far from a perfect film, but it is a worthy one.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: February 3, 2009.