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September 07, 2008

Miracle at St. Anna

 

Miracle Spike Lee boxes outside of his directorial weight-class with a war story bogged down by ham-handed smacks of magical realism and over-pronounced examples of racial prejudice. Lee’s muddle of inappropriate camera angles, overemphasized exposition, and overall inability to get beyond the scope of the source material makes the cinematic garment seem like it was made with a shortage of fabric.

James McBride’s script, based on his own novel, proves problematic in its attempt to create a believable fictionalized account of the experiences of a group of four Buffalo Soldiers (African-American servicemen) fighting in the 92nd Infantry Division in Tuscany, Italy between August 1944 and November of 1945. The troop survive crossing a shallow river into enemy territory where they remain trapped with a group of Italian locals, unaided by their unit’s white commander who refuses to send in reinforcements because he doesn’t believe their reported location. The group’s largest soldier Sam (Omar Benson Miller) has a knack for lugging around heavy things, like a decapitated statue head, and a lost little Italian boy named Angelo who he believes will keep his squad safe from harm.

This is a war movie that’s all over the place. Its performances range from disappointing to mediocre in an overlong film that’s more likely to give you a headache than any sense of thematic resolve.

(Touchstone Pictures) Rated R. 145 mins. (C-)

 

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