I'm not a detractor of director Spike Lee, but I'm not necessarily a fan, either, finding most of his works, other than Malcolm X and 25th Hour—which is one of my all-time favorites—to be rather middle of the road. Though lacking in certain areas and certainly not as profound as my 2002 fave, Miracle at St. Anna is nonetheless still a rewarding watch.
Based on the book by James McBride, an aging WWII vet (Laz Alonso, Stomp the Yard) is arrested after he inexplicably kills a European man at the post office in New York City. While in custody, he flashes back to the war. During an incursion in Italy, four African-American soldiers (Alonso, Derek Luke, Michael Ealy and Omar Benson Miller), members of the all-black Buffalo Soldiers division, become holed up in a Tuscan town. Awaiting further orders and a potential Nazi onslaught, the men commingle with villagers and Italian Partisans, who eventually unfold the story of a civilian massacre at a neighboring church.
Unfortunately, three-quarters of the protagonists seem a bit like war film archetypes: the upstanding leader, the screw-off and the meekly innocent. Alonso really shines as the fourth man, however, and is the hardest to classify and therefore the most interesting. Comparatively, the rest of the characters seem underdeveloped.
The film contains typical war violence, but the story is more about the people than the explosions and gunfire. And Lee beautifully captures the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. All in all, if you can handle the two-hour, 40-minute run time, the movie's worth a look.
This video courtesy of Hollywood Video, 590 Broadway Ave., 208-342-6117.