Miracle At St. Anna Spike Lee

Miracle At St. Anna Spike Lee
You can't fault Spike Lee for his ambition. When he gets angry about something and decides to make a movie, he's determined to make the ultimate cinematic op-ed piece on the subject. When the Levees Broke, his brilliant Hurricane Katrina documentary, crammed every conceivable facet of its subject matter into its four-hour runtime, while the delirious She Hate Me managed to work corporate greed, racism, sexual mores, whistleblowers and contemporary American politics into a 138-minute comedy about a man who impregnates lesbians. Miracle at St. Anna begins with an African-American WWII veteran in the '80s watching a John Wayne war movie on TV in which black soldiers are ignored except for a lynching scene. "We fought for this country too," says the displeased veteran — words that I suspect were originally said by Spike Lee while watching AMC on a rainy afternoon. And so we have his 160-minute war epic Miracle at St. Anna, a curious combination of war movie sentimentality and Spike Lee anger, of "inspirational" scenes between deliberately uncomfortable race-based material. Lee's signature bombastic stylishness — overwhelming music, explosive dialogue, unpredictable close-ups and saturated colours — is both his greatest talent and flaw, and the style that made Inside Man an above-average genre picture clashes awkwardly with James McBride's earnest screenplay about four African-American soldiers who risk their lives behind enemy lines to save an injured Italian boy despite the disrespect shown to them by their white superiors. At 160 minutes, the film is blisteringly long (the present-day framing sequences are cumbersome and arguably unnecessary) and yet all of the characters remain frustratingly underdeveloped, to the point where the film is sometimes a chore to watch. Still, it has its fair share of signature Spike moments, including an electrifying scene in a racist diner. There's nothing wrong with Miracle at St. Anna that one more rewrite and 40 minutes of editing wouldn't have solved. A special edition DVD reportedly features interviews with Lee and historians discussing the real-life, all-black "Buffalo Soldiers" division of the U.S. army. (Buena Vista)