Miracle at St. Anna
While Miracle at St. Anna definitely had its shining moments, it most certainly failed to reach it’s lofty ambitions. This isn’t of the Spike Lee calibur we’ve been enjoying the last few years, and it’s a shame, Miracle came so close to being brilliant.
The story was written, and adapted for the screen by James McBride, follows a group of buffalo soldiers in Italy during World War II. A small group of troops were separated from the rest of the soldiers due to mistrust in the chain of command. The contingency makes their way into a small village of Italians near Tuscany and sets up camp, determining what the best course of action is. It’s here the majority of the story takes place. And what a story it is. The film spans almost three hours.
The first twenty five minutes after opening, provide us with some of the beautiful and moving shots that Lee has given us in the past. It really was some of the most seductive camera work concerning war scenes that I can recall in recent film history. I was immediately captivated by onscreen poetry caught in Lee’s lens, contrasting between the terrified, under-trained, American foot soldiers and the cool evil of the well organized Nazis. Then, all of the sudden, it’s like Lee let Tyler Perry come on and direct for half an hour. The shift in pace and tone completely throw off the viewer in an unpleasant way. The central acts in the movie had a difficult time balancing between this off-pitch humor and the seriousness of WWII, most of the time sucking the emotional power that could have boosted the plot.
For a while, the plot flops around like a dying fish out of water, going into what seemed like long digressions, leaving loose ends flapping about only to casually throw them together later. However, towards the end of the film, Lee managed to pull parts of it together to provide some moving, and poignant scenes that will stick with you long after you’ve left the theater. Being a film about war, violence plays a central role, but not to the point of exploitation. While the film continually examines the racial tensions between white and black American soldiers, the real focus is on the human interaction, the relationships these people built through this horrific and tragic experience.
Despite it’s shortcomings, Miracle at St. Anna seems to be the first film of the year that really stretched its muscles, reaching for the sky. It’s far more interesting than anything out in mainstream theaters right now.
Although it’s a terrific system, these scores are proof that they are flawed. There is no reason Eagle Eye should have a higher score than this film.