Critically acclaimed Oscar-nominated director Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing) has touched many different controversial subjects by writing, producing, directing, and acting in films dealing with social, racial, and political issues. And though all of his work isn’t masterful, his WWII epic Miracle at St. Anna has got to be one of his most accomplished films for many reasons.
Adapted from the well-received novel by James McBride (who also wrote the screenplay), this WWII epic follows four members of the U.S. Army’s all-black 92nd Infantry Division (Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, and Omar Benson Miller) as they find themselves trapped behind enemy lines after one risked his life to save an Italian boy. They place most of their belief in this young Italian boy and an artifact hundreds of years old found in a gutter, both believed to be miracles. These soldiers, also called the Buffalo Soldiers, show courage and strength that lead to more than just a single miracle in the process of attempting to save a village in distress.
There’s a story within the story, and it’s really good. Try and figure it out. Interspersed with captivating subplots and subtle humor, Miracle at St. Anna (although teetering on an uneven scale at times) is brilliant filmmaking and one of the best films of 2008. Its dialog is crisp and the performances are convincing enough to cause a viewer to work up some tears. It’s been a decade or so since we’ve seen a war film this well written, directed, and acted. The cast, composed primarily of African American actors, are top notch and Oscar-worthy. This gripping and powerful story of bravery, sacrifice, friendship, and (ahem) miracles is well paced and superbly directed.
This is intriguing, meaningful, sincere, thought-provoking, and extremely powerful work. I applaud both the cast and crew for this magnificent achievement. With spectacular performances (particularly from Omar Benson Miller and Laz Alonzo), superb writing, and skilled craftsmanship, Miracle at St. Anna takes a depressing subject matter and provides a disturbing and harrowing experience with a moving and uplifting aftermath. This is Lee’s first film in years to reach greatness, a true masterpiece.
It would be easy to argue that at 160 minutes, Miracle at St. Anna is too long. Let me assure you, it’s worth your time and money. It’s full of talented actors (some of whom just make cameo appearances) and maintains a sustained momentum. That the entire cast ace each line and every scene (though some are massively brutal, disturbing, and bound to be controversial) is a wonder to behold. And it ends in a refined and hopeful manner. You’re only left with one question: who is The Sleeping Man?
Although the DVD is absent of special features, you can always watch the movie again. It’s a fantastic film. However, there is a section that includes sneak peeks of films that include Happy Go Lucky, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Doubt, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and Blindness. Be sure to catch this DVD from Touchstone Pictures, it’s a marvel. 5/5 stars