Miracle At St. Anna Spike Lee

Miracle At St. Anna Spike Lee
There’s an endless supply of WWII movies telling and retelling the story, both real and fictionalized, from as many angles as one can imagine. Still, Spike Lee’s attempt to chronicle the experiences of African-American soldiers in the conflict is fairly unique, or at least it’s not a tale that’s been told a thousand times already.

I’ve been suffering from WWII-movie fatigue for a while and even though I swore Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book would be my last, I couldn’t resist the temptation of seeing the Second World War as "a Spike Lee joint.”

Adapted from the acclaimed novel by James McBride and told through the eyes of the all-black 92nd Division (known as the Buffalo Soldiers), Miracle At St. Anna is as much a story of discrimination and racism in America as it is about the incredible hardships of battle.

A messy war epic set behind enemy lines in occupied Italy, the film follows four men trapped behind enemy lines during a disastrous Allied advance: Staff Sgt. Stamps (Derek Luke), Corporal Negron (Laz Alonzo), Sgt. Cummings (Michael Ealy) and the enormous Pvt. Train (Omar Benson Miller). The soldiers make their way to a nearby village and soon realize that they’re in a great position to collect intelligence about German movements aimed at the Americans.

Hardly a premise unique to the pantheon of great American war films but Lee manages to subtly frame the conflict not only as one between great powers but between classes of people, neighbours, oppressors and the oppressed.

Miracle At St. Anna isn’t all hits and no misses but the misfires are well balanced by the truly electrifying and poignant moments where we are plunged into the bloody battles in the fields and in men’s hearts. There are weird moments of magical realism and some clunky writing and editing but overall the messiness is a natural part of Lee’s attempt to do something really big.

Miracle At St. Anna is a worthwhile attempt at stretching his directorial muscles beyond his usual comfort zone. (Buena Vista)