Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA MOVIE REVIEW
Directed by: Spike Lee
Running time: 2 hrs. 40 mins.
Release date: September 26, 2008
Genre: Drama, War and Adaptation
Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures
MPAA Rating: R
Miracle at St. Anna is based on the 2003 novel by James McBride with the same title. Spike Lee's fictional movie based on true events, tells the story of four African American soldiers of U.S. Army 92nd Infantry Division in Tuscany, Italy during World War II.
The history of this unit of the Army was that it consisted of 15,000 men of color. They were labeled Buffalo Soldiers during their tour of service in Italy during World War II from August 1944 to November 1945. Actually, this term came about by the Native Americans during the Mexican War to the black men of the 9th and 10th Cavalries because of their dark skin and hair reminiscent to the buffalo.
There are many different types of war films: the realistic, graphic films like Saving Private Ryan, and others of a character study like Schindler's List. In this film there is a combination of the two. Spike Lee's new film includes both character study as well as visual portrayal of the violent horrible and unglamorous realities of war.
The opening scenes of the film depict a Post Office employee shooting a customer for no apparent reason. An aggressive reporter, brilliantly played by Joseph Gordan-Levitt as Tim Boyle, and Detective Ricci portrayed by actor/director of film, television, stage John Turturro set off to find out the reason(s) why this killing took place. In order to do this, Spike Lee dedicates a major portion of this film to a flashback for the backstory.
With an international cast of many outstanding actors, the story reflects on how four the army's black 92nd Division find themselves separated from their unit and behind enemy lines. While risking their lives for a country in which they are treated with little and no respect than the enemy, Staff Sgt. Aubrey Stamps (Derek Luke), Bishop Cummings (Michael Ealy), Pvt.1st Class Sam Train (Omar Benson Miller) and Cpl. Hector Negron (Laz Alonso), stumble into a small town in Tuscany with an abandoned little boy named Angelo Torancelli (Matteo Sciabordi). Derek Luke's character is the leader of the group who is well adjusted with mixed feelings about race issues. Bishop Cummings plays a happy-go-lucky con man who is very bitter. Omar Benson Miller is the gentle giant whose religious beliefs and good nature befriends the little boy named Angelo who leads the four soldiers into the village. Laz Alonso is from Puerto Rico who holds onto a statue of St. Anna after the war.
The statute of St. Anna is the tie in for the plot and flasback scenes. This part of the film is very intense and brings out magnificent performances by the above mentioned actors as the brave men who care for the well being of the civilian town people. The long list of outstanding Italian actors such as, Pierfrancesco Favino and Valentina Cervi as freedom fighters and romantic links add the a foreign touch to this mystical story of compassion.
Supporting cast members include Kerry Washington, John Leguizamo, D.B. Sweeney and Robert John Burke bring small parts to this film. However, they are necessary parts that fill in the mystique of the story.
My only problem with this film is the editing. Not that it is too long, but I would have like to see the middle of the film cut down by 30 minutes and added to the concluding scenes. The finale was too quick and lacked realism for an intelligent film. Spike Lee is known for wrapping up his movies in a sweet little Hollywood bow and in this case he did it again.
You have to be a Spike fan to really enjoy this movie. I enjoyed this film until the final scenes.
FILM RATING (B-)