Miracle at St. Anna (2008) R 160min
October 4th, 2008 by Maxim · 2 Comments · 6,755 Views
A.k.a. Miracolo a Sant’Anna is directed Spike Lee (Malcolm X (1992), The Original Kings of Comedy (2000), 25th Hour (2002)) based on James McBride’s novel who also wrote the screenplay for this movie.
The plot: Miracle at St. Anna is loosly based on actual massacre at Sant’Anna di Stazzema in August of 1944 by Waffen SS in retaliation for partisan activity in the vicinity of this Tuscan town. At the center of the plot is the 400-year-old head piece from Ponte Santa Trinita in Florence that Nazis blew up. The story begins in 1983 when a WWII veteran (Derek Luke), now working at the post office in Manhattan, shot a customer with a Luger pistol. Investigation into this premeditated murder links the piece of the statue of incredible historical and financial value to the story from over 40 years earlier, when four black American soldiers got trapped in a Tuscan village and one of them begins to care for an injured Italian boy.
The good: Good action scenes: pretty good firefight sequences comparable in quality to Saving Private Ryan and other recent war movies. There have been so many of those, however, that they now feel stereotypical. There’s a lot of focus on racism in US, particularly in the South, and Lee points out that black units, “Buffalo Soldiers”, were a “military experiment” and nobody was taking the black soldiers seriously. It manifested itself later in the movie when black unit requested fire support but white artillery officer did not believe them and directed fire into a wrong sector, thus killing all but four black soldiers in the unit by “friendly fire”. Throughout the movie there are many collisions and conflicts between blacks and whites. At the same time, there were instances of tolerance and brothers-in-arms camaraderie between blacks and whites in the movie too. “I feel more free here in the foreign country then I do back home”, notes one black Puerto Rican soldier, “these folks don’t look down on us”. The story is very good, but implementation could have been so much better. I liked how central characters showed both their villain and hero side, and Lee also showed that in times of war people do really unpredictable things.
The bad: This movie is very long – perhaps an attempt to sell it as an epic. Half way through it I noticed people begin to check their watches. Stereotypical blacks – one has a golden tooth, another one is big a dumb. Acting and dialog were uneven - occasionally actors had really good moments, sometimes they seem to have over-acting (particularly Italian actors) or over-rehearsing a scene. The music was sooo annoying. The ending was so melodramatic it made me lough. Spike Lee’s direction lacks discipline. Everything is so oversimplified. The whole murder plot is totally unnecessary. The story of those four soldiers is an epic on its own and need not be wrapped in poorly acted courtroom drama. In all this time there wasn’t enough time for real character development – all characters are pretty schematic. Unnecessary and underdeveloped side-plots too. Worst actor in the movie – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays a reporter following the murder by Hector Stamps and who published an article about discovery of the statue head in Stamps’s closet. Apparently members of Italian resistance were not happy with the representation of their efforts in the movie.
The summary: Very long epic-wanna-be with lot of problems. Multiple unnecessary sub-plots.
The cast: 2nd Staff Sergeant Aubrey Stamps – Derek Luke | Sergeant Bishop Cummings – Michael Ealy | Corporal Hector Negron – Laz Alonso | Private First Class Sam Train – Omar Benson Miller | Peppi ‘The Great Butterfly’ Grotta – Pierfrancesco Favino | Renata – Valentina Cervi | Angelo (The boy) – Matteo Sciabordi | Detective Ricci – John Turturro | Tim Boyle – Joseph Gordon-Levitt | Enrico – John Leguizamo | Colonel Driscoll – D.B. Sweeney | General Ned Almond – Robert John Burke | Platoon Commander Huggs – Omari Hardwick
The crew: Director – Spike Lee | Novel – James McBride | Screenplay – James McBride | Producers – Roberto Cicutto, Jon Kilik, Spike Lee, Luigi Musini, Marco Valerio Pugini, Butch Robinson | Original Music – Terence Blanchard | Cinematography – Matthew Libatique
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