Miracle At St Anna - Review
Review by Jack Foley
SPIKE Lee’s Miracle At St Anna is a flawed war film based on a real life act of heroism that still deserves to find an audience.
Based on a novel by James McBride, it chronicles the true story of the segregated 92nd Infantry Division, or Buffalo Soldiers, consisting of 15,000 American soldiers serving in Italy during the Second World War.
When four soldiers are caught up behind enemy lines and separated from their unit, they must soon form an allegiance with the villagers to stand up to an oncoming Nazi attack.
Lee’s film is all about the courage and futility of war, and also focuses on a friendship that develops between one of the men and a six-year-old Italian orphan.
The little-known Laz Alonso shines as the soldier in question, Corporal Hector Negron, who goes against orders to protect the orphan and whose subsequent heroism landed him a purple heart for bravery.
But he’s ably supported by his fellow unit members – most notably Michael Ealy as Sergeant Cummings and Derek Luke as Staff Sergeant Aubrey Stamps – while several of the villagers stand out.
Unfortunately, what should have been a war-time classic, especially given its foundation in truth, suffers from some curiously laboured direction from Lee.
Rather than focusing on the mission itself, Lee book-ends proceedings with sequences set in the ‘80s, which find Negron being tried for murder. It’s an unnecessary device that serves to drag an already long film to almost unforgivable lengths, even though it does involve supporting performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and John Turturro.
Some of the war-time sequences could also have been trimmed, even though Lee directs the battle scenes with suitable gusto.
That said, Miracle At St Anna didn’t deserve to go straight to DVD in this country as it shines a light on another little-known chapter in World War II history, as well as another minority whose bravery and sacrifice were every bit as important.
Hence, for all its flaws – and its excessive running time – Lee’s tribute to those brave Buffalo Soldiers remains worth seeing.
Running time: 160mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 27, 2011