Miracle at St. Anna (Touchstone, R)

stanna2.jpgThere is a lot of stuff going on in Miracle at St. Anna. I think in their effort to prove that African-American stories of WWII are worth telling, Lee and McBride (who wrote the novel the film was based on) packed too many things into the story. Too much is either implausible, irrelevant or both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

stanna1.jpg

I really wanted to like one of the only movies ever made about the African-American experience in World War II; unfortunately, Spike Lee and screenwriter James McBride won’t let me.

Miracle at St. Anna focuses on four black troops who get stranded in a Tuscan village surrounded by Germans. We’re introduced to horny Bishop (Michael Ealy), take-charge Stamps (Derek Luke), slow Train (Omar Benson Miller) and observant Hector (Laz Alonso). The men were part of a company charged with crossing to the German-occupied side of a local river, and survived the massacre that followed. The troops pick up an injured Italian boy and head to the first town they find for respite.

There is a lot of stuff going on in Miracle at St. Anna. I think in their effort to prove that African-American stories of WWII are worth telling, Lee and McBride (who wrote the novel the film was based on) packed too many things into the story. Too much is either implausible, irrelevant or both.

The audience is treated to the following: a shocking murder, a long-held grudge, two traitors, an imaginative orphan, a (possibly) magical ancient artifact, a wayward beauty, fascists, Italian partisan rebels, superstitious village people and much, too much more.

Maybe all of this would have held together were it not for the flights of fancy Lee tends to drift off on even during his most serious films. Things happen that just make no sense.

The most extreme of these is a flashback wherein our four soldiers were off base back in the Southern U.S. They stop by an ice-cream shop in full uniform, but are told to go around back to be served — even as guarded Nazi prisoners sit at a table, enjoying sundaes. Stamps refuses, so the shop owner pulls a gun, forcing the troops into a stoic but bitter withdrawal.

But instead of letting this scene stand alone, Lee and McBride show us a virtually impossible resolution, one which almost certainly would have ended with prison terms for the soldiers, not to mention that their actions would have “proved” the racist notion that black people are uncontrollable animals.

Lee and McBride also burden the film with unnecessary length and scenes that have nothing to do with the core of the plot, apparently just so Lee can let some famous friends show off.

In one brief, irrelevant scene, John Leguizamo conveniently gives news of a crime to a meaningless character; later, Kerry Washington’s lawyer character sasses a judge with utter confidence and impunity.

I wish I could say that the performances of the leads helped things to coalesce or elevated the project, but I can’t. Everyone was well cast, but the story problems overtook anything your average actor could have done to make the film better. | Adrienne Jones

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply