Sunday, October 12, 2008

Miracle at St. Anna

I enjoyed the first 15 minutes. An old guy sits alone in his desolate apartment, murmuring at the TV. Cut to him in a bank, selling people stamps. I guy walks up. Our old guy takes one look at him, pulls at a German luger and BAM, shoots him twice. It’s pretty catchy, and its style is very, very Spike Lee (that's a good thing).

Everything pretty much goes downhill from there. We go back a few decades to an all-black platoon in WWII. They get ambushed and many of them die. But this is like no war battle you’ve ever seen. Here we have overbearing jazz score by Terrance Blanchard (which is usual so poignant in Lee’s films), unconvincing acting and cinematography that’s way too jumpy; it’s a real Saving Private Ryan rip-off.

Four surviving soldiers take shelter in a nearby Italian town as they wait for their comrades to come rescue them. And that’s pretty much it.

After the success of Inside Man, Spike Lee was told that he had the power to make any film he wanted. So, he decided to adapt James McBride’s novel about four stranded black soldiers, struggling to find absolution. It’s a good concept, and an admirable one at that given the fact that there are so few films made about black soldiers (Glory was made in 1989, people). But what you can credit to concept, fails miserably in execution.

Spike Lee is one of my favorite filmmakers. He’s responsible for such classics as Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, 25th Hour and the searing documentary When the Levees Broke. But I dare say that success has finally caught up with him.

I’ve never seen such bad acting in a Lee film. With the exception of the always marvelous Derek Luke, the other three soldiers scream and shout in a way that is so unconvincing, it’s cringe worthy. There are other things. I five minute scene featuring John Leguizamo, has no real place here. In fact, I was questioning the reasoning of several scenes, trying to figure out if they were necessary. At nearly three hours, this film would benefit from a drastic edit. Alas, were left with some of the most disappointing work of a filmmaker I admire a great deal.

Furthermore, there is a scene in this film (the scene that explains the title) that is so grotesque, that I almost walked out of the theatre. After the film, I asked myself, “I wonder how Scorsese or Spielberg or Soderbergh would’ve handled that scene?” The answer was easy: they would’ve left it out. D


  1. We talked about this elsewhere... at least part of the problem is that it's just too damn long. Cut about 45 minutes from this and it would be a lot better.

    1. Yes, certainly. Agree. Honestly, a D here may be too kind. Which is a shame, because I really enjoyed the contemporary scenes with Gordon-Levitt and especially Kerry Washington. She was a perfect hotshit lawyer.

      "Say nothing. Do nothing."

      Actually, this movie kind of reminds me of Scorsese's New York, New York. After the massive success of Taxi Driver (or in Lee's case, Inside Man) Marty was given free reign to make whatever he wanted. The result was a long, bloated mess. Damn shame. And people wonder why it took Spike four years to make another feature. Well, here's to hoping for Oldboy!