DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)

    Derek Luke as AUBREY STAMPS
    Michael Ealy as BISHOP CUMMINGS
    Laz Alonso as HECTOR NEGRON
    Omar Benson Miller as SAM TRAIN
    Pierfrancesco Favino as PEPPI GROTTA
    Valentina Cervi as RENATA
    Matteo Sciabordi as THE BOY

    Rated R
    Studio: Touchstone Pictures

    Directed by: Spike Lee

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“Miracle at St. Anna” begins in New York in the 1980s. A mild-mannered Post Office employee suddenly guns down a customer in cold blood. The police investigation that follows turns up a priceless Italian artifact buried in the perpetrator’s closet. A young reporter visits the man in jail in order to get his story, which sends us back to 1944 in Tuscany, Italy. Several platoons of African American soldiers are advancing on the German front line. A bloody firefight kills most of them but leaves four survivors who miraculously fall behind the enemy line. While trying to escape, the soldiers pick up a lone Italian child and hide in a local village, which happens to be a hotbed of partisan activity and a target of the Nazis.

I like a good World War II movie, but this really wasn’t a good World War II movie. There were elements of the World War II story that really worked. The firefight footage and the general action was pretty well done, although not perfect.

Spike Lee is an excellent filmmaker who is crippled by his own ego and zealous political views. His dramatic shots are powerful and set the film up well. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie – namely the story and characters – don’t pop as much as the scenery does.

On one hand, I think it’s great that there’s a film that champions the Buffalo Soldiers. Sadly, Lee does them a disservice by not showing the soldiers in a very heroic or competent light.

There’s so much about this movie that doesn’t work. On one hand, Lee is trying to show the Buffalo Soldiers, but he portrays them as insubordinate jerks who have no honor in the military. Lee also tries to bring home the racial challenges they face with a flashback to the states, but it seems completely out of place with the Italian Fascists bearing down on the characters.

Additionally, the running time of this film is a bloated 160 minutes. That can be a good thing for a film that is packed with action and essential character development. However, in “Miracle at St. Anna,” the characters have no growth and gained no respect for me. The characters became stereotypes of the worst kind, including the sex-fiend Sergeant who can’t keep his hands of the hot Italian women.

These soldiers weren’t heroes, but rather running scared and simply caught in a crossfire. Watching these characters try to be worthy of a hero’s film over the course of two and a half hours was simply excruciating.

Finally, there’s no focus in the movie. It’ can’t decide whose story it’s telling – the rebels, the Buffalo Soldiers, the Italians or the boy who seems to be missing his family.

If you manage to sit through the 160 minutes of movie on this DVD, you’ll find nothing at the end in terms of special features. So enjoy the film, ‘cause that’s all you get.

Spike Lee and anyone who doesn’t want to hurt his feelings by telling him they didn’t like the “joint.”

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