Miracle at St. Anna (2008) Poster

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Miracles can be bad too
moutonbear2525 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
2nd Staff Sergeant Aubrey Stamps: I know, I'm the only one left who knows.

I know this is too easy even for me but the true miracle at the center of Spike Lee's latest joint, MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA, is that I was able to sit through it without screaming out of sheer frustration over how hollow the whole affair was. I don't feel so bad about taking that oversimplified stance, seeing as how Lee himself didn't seem to have any concerns about dumbing down this important history lesson. Lee is an accomplished filmmaker and MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA is an ambitious project, even for him. He prides himself, as well he should, on telling stories from an African-American perspective that is rarely taken in mainstream film. In this case, he chose to shed some much needed light on the soldiers known as the Buffalo Soldiers, all black regiments in the U.S. army. He wanted to give the world a fresh take on the World War II epic by using an unfamiliar voice but all he accomplished was minimizing their plight by weighing down his film in tired convention and never committing to any one point of view.

I don't mind long movies when the story warrants the time spent. MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA opens in 1983. A postal worker (Derek Luke) has just shot and murdered a man who bought a stamp off of him for no apparent reason. A statue head, one with incredible value both financially and historically, has been found tucked away at the bottom of his closet. News of the statue's recovery spreads across the globe and an investigative journalist (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is determined to understand why a seemingly law-abiding citizen would commit such a random act of brutality. This goes on for about thirty or forty minutes until the postal worker finally agrees to tell his story. It all started in Italy during the second world war. My question is, if it all started then, why did Lee waste so much time with a pointless excuse to get to the actual story when the story in question needed no excuse to be told? This all too tired Hollywood convention needs to cease. People need to start getting to the point.

The story, adapted from James McBride's novel of the same name by McBride himself, follows a foursome of Buffalo soldiers who survive a German attack, find a young Italian boy in need of medical attention and eventually set up camp in a small village while they wait for reinforcement. During their stay, the soldiers make friends and enemies with the townspeople, which challenges the inherent racism of all involved. It isn't a bad story; it is just written in such a false and incredible fashion that undermines the film's credibility. There is no time for one liners when you are being attacked on all sides by the German army but yet somehow McBride felt that quips between gunfire would alleviate the intensity, as if that were necessary. There is also apparently no time for real character development. Bringing an untold story to light means putting faces to characters that had none before. Without development, these soldiers are nothing but black soldiers instead of real people. Somehow, by forcing us to face the colour of their skin, Lee made it so that is all we end up seeing.

Spike Lee makes important movies but sometimes, he makes them with the knowledge of just how important they truly are. MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA is at times horrifying and at others, beautiful. Mostly though, it is tedious and disappointing. It is not so much disappointing that Lee wasn't able to pull off such a huge endeavor but more so that if anyone could have done it the justice it deserved, it would have been him. Now, the story has been told but the point was never made.
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Bogus history at St. Anna
petra_ste9 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
See, I hate that. I hate movies which can't resist the temptation to spice real events up with invented love stories (Pearl Harbor, Captain Corelli's Mandolin) or bogus mysteries (Miracle at St. Anna), all while pompously claiming to be "based on true events". I hate tedious narrative frames which serve no purpose whatsoever apart for giving viewers a modern setting to which, supposedly, they can relate more easily before flashbacks kick in.

12 august 1944, town of Sant'Anna, Italy: German soldiers killed 560 people, including women and children. You'd think such an awful event would deserve to be treated in a straightforward manner, without adding clichés (which here reach an almost toxic level) or making stuff up. But race-obsessed filmmaker Spike Lee isn't really interested in that terrifying war crime, but rather in the (fictional) story of four Afro-American soldiers.

See, there was an interesting movie to be made about the Buffalo Soldiers; the problem is, using a real-life massacre merely as a backdrop for an invented story is callous and tone-deaf. The Sant'Anna tragedy deserved its own movie.

Besides, the movie falsifies history, changing crucial circumstances which lead to the massacre and blaming it on the (fictional) betrayal of a partisan.

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Bad In So Many Ways
james18441 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Spike Lee dropped the ball in so many ways. Casting that brought in mostly weak actors. Jerky scenes that have no bearing on the story line. What was really annoying was the "hook" in this film. The head that is continually carried throughout the entire film that was uneventful to the storyline. The over dramatic scenes of racial confrontations were preposterous. I really wanted to find this movie worth the 7 bucks that I dished out but alas! It was not the case. If Spike Lee would go back and watch Eastwood's film "Letters From Iwo Jima" again he would learn the elements of war were much better presented. If Spike Lee thought he was going to set the record straight about blacks serving in WWII he missed the target terribly. Many scenes fell apart. One example that stood out was the scene where a Nazi officer spares the life of one of the black soldiers and then hands him a loaded Lugar hand gun. Really now...Anyone going to buy that ridiculous scenario?
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Two Hours And Forty Minutes
casamartinez0127 September 2008
Endless, unbearable. Italian actors overacting shamelessly and Spike Lee losing track of his own talents. The self indulgence mixed with the confusion made this "epic" one of the most difficult films to sit through in long, long time. During my visit to Los Angeles I was invited to a few screenings but this one was the one I longed for. Terrible let down. It's been a long time since "Do The Right Thing" and I have the feeling that it has to do with Spike Lee's vision of himself as a filmmaker. There is a lack of humility that blurs everything he does and "Miracle At St Anna" is a perfect example of that. In a way "The Inside Man", his genre commercial outing, was more honest and disciplined than anything his done of late. I can't imagine this film making any money so maybe Mr Lee will have the space to reflect. I certainly hope so because I'm sure he still has some aces up his sleeve.
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So much that equals to so little
C-Younkin28 September 2008
"Miracle at St. Anna" brings up a very interesting point about black soldiers during World War 2, primarily that they were actually there. Sure, Spike Lee wrongly and probably strategically went after Clint Eastwood for not depicting as many black soldiers at Iwo Jima in his two films, but that whole controversy led me to discover things I had not originally thought of about segregated units. And isn't encouraging people to think about race exactly what Spike is all about? Now he's directing "St. Anna" from a screenplay from James McBride (who also wrote the novel), the first movie I recall that focuses on an all black unit during the war. I love hearing stories about a director who puts his actors through a grueling, depressingly miserable boot camp before filming. I think it shows a lot of heart from everybody involved. It also sounds like it worked to their benefit. Advanced word has it that this movie is masterful and destined for some award recognition and after "Inside Man", Lee is already flying high. But you always wonder with Spike. Are you going to get a provocative flick like "The 25th Hour" or are you going to get something long and rambling that doesn't really go anywhere like "She Hate Me?" So can this movie get the audience and the awards, or will it fail on both accounts?

Spike Lee's film has gone from powerful Oscar contender to merciless dud in the course of 2 short days. There is nearly nothing to latch on to in this movie and yet it's jammed full of three hours worth of random material. The bloody battles are there, complete with bullets and explosions flying through the air and limbs being torn from bodies. The racism and bigotry of white America towards black America is alive and well, including one scene where a diner serves German soldiers but refuses to serve coloreds. We get many side characters including a German traitor and a group of Italian revolutionaries. There's a cute sub-plot about the relationship between Private Sam Train and an Italian boy and another subplot where a love triangle arises between Bishop, Stamps, and Renata. And then there is the folklore stuff about "The Sleeping Man." But what's the point of all this? I started thinking about the significance of saving one man or the significance of one picture defining an entire war and how those films by Spielberg and Eastwood (you know which ones I'm talking about) managed to engage us and then I started thinking about this film. Out of all that's happening in Italy, what exactly is it that we're supposed to hold on to here. What makes these soldiers and their story special other than them being black? It all just feels like melodramatic filler to me.

It also doesn't help that the characters seem like types instead of real personalities. Most don't come through as memorable or terribly compelling and you really have to blame the script for giving them such bland characterizations. There's the guy that Derek Luke plays, filled with honor even though he knows America still will not accept him. The guy Michael Ealy plays, a suave but selfish ladies man. And the wide-eyed innocent giant that Omar Benson Miller plays. These actors do what they can with one-dimensional roles but the characters and scenes they're given never allow them to show any range past the very short character descriptions they're given. Laz Alonso is really the only one out of the four who gets to show any real emotional depth, and that's only because of the beginning and ending of the film take place in 1984 and there seems to be a much more exciting and rich opportunity for drama in those few scenes than in any of the two hours spent in the Italian countryside.

And another thing I wondered about this movie was whether it was really trying to be a true to life account of heroism during the war or if it was some kind of over-produced WW2 action film. There were times when I really thought Lee was making a war film reminiscent of "Indiana Jones." One scene that keeps nagging at me is the introduction of a Nazi general, complete with over-the-top ominous score to announce him by composer Terence Blanchard. As the movie gets more soap operatic with betrayals and hidden secrets, this only made that feeling grow more and more. I also didn't care for the movie trying to be funny at certain points, feeling that those moments disrupted the tone entirely.

"Miracle at St. Anna" disappointed me tremendously. I was expecting something along the lines of "Glory" but what I got was something overblown with material and execution but still so short on actual depth or emotional impact. It's not all Spikes fault. A lot of it also has to be laid at the feet of screenwriter James McBride, who really should have showed some restraint when it came to adapting his novel cause 3 hours of this is too much. When you're going to make something that long, it's got to be air-tight (ex. "The Dark Knight) but unfortunately this movie just doesn't hold together at all. So if you're keeping score. Get the red marker out, cross this off your awards list cause its done.
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Great Story, But Execution Could Have Been Better
Franchescanado28 September 2008
Let me begin by saying that this movie was okay. But it could have been way better.

The story itself is great and kept me interested until the end, but it's execution could have been much better. Throughout the movie, some of the acting ranged from good to bad to downright lame. Jon Turturro's cameo as a detective was extremely disappointing, for instance. The acting picks up when the flashback begins, but every so often it rockets down.

The battle scenes were, for lack of a better word, comical. They were over the top and stereotypical of any other war movie, complete with bodies being flung from explosions in an exaggerated fashion and people sobbing over amputated rubber limbs.

The characters were all over the place on the sympathy scale. Stamps and Trey (or is it Train?) elicit plenty of sympathy, whereas Bishop and whatever the girl's name was only brought out anger from me.

The worst part of the movie is the editing, though. Some of the battle scenes are choppy, and there are entire cuts to different scenes for split seconds that we could have done without (they serve no purpose whatsoever).

My biggest problem was the stereotypical racism of the white characters in the movie. The only American white people in the movie are shown as black-hating jerks who's ignorance leads them to destruction.

Overall, the movie was good. Not amazing, not great, definitely not a masterpiece, but it wasn't terrible or bad or crappy. It was a great story, but it could have been executed much better.

6.5 Stars.
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I have two big white biscuits right here for you.
lastliberal3 July 2009
Is this movie as bad as they say? Has Spike Lee lost focus? It garnered a lot of nominations, but no wins; what could be the matter? The opening was fascinating. There was going to be a story with multiple subplots that would make this an intelligent movie. Even Laila Petrone couldn't distract me as hard as she tried.

The story shifts to a battle between the Germans and the Buffalo soldiers, which was outstanding, and, as expected, shows the prejudice of the white officers in command. Only four men escaped the artillery barrage. It was funny watching Train (Omar Benson Miller) dragging a head with him as a good luck talisman. Soon, he is also dragging an 8-year-old boy (Matteo Sciabordi).

The story settles to life in town where various stories, including the explanation for the killing in the beginning, are told. Another big battle in town ends the story and brings us back to the present.

Was it overly long? No, I found that it was compelling enough that the time flew by. It was a good war movie with a twist. I found it enjoyable.
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From Another Perspective
af_xander23 September 2008
Length is a factor for this film, and it's not the normal action driven war film. I was lucky enough to attend the premier in NY and from the perspective of a Cadet at West Point, I would say that I respected this film BECAUSE it "jumped around." It showed all perspectives and that there were people with good intentions on all sides. The bad intentions were included as well, and though it doesn't grab you the entire time, it tells an interesting tale. Sadly, most people don't go to see a war film for this reasons, they all want Saving Private Ryan these days. But that's not what war is always about, and this film shows the other aspects. The black soldiers are each equally representative of varying perspectives that these men had. With a lot of duality also represented, this film leaves a lot to think about if you watch it with the right eye. It seems most people I've talked to have a problem with length and action, but if you don't pay so much attention to that and just enjoy it, you'll find a nice film that takes a different approach.
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By far the worst of Spike Lee!!!
wilfordalexander30 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
First I'd like to say that I've been one of Spike Lee's biggest fans for as long as he's been around and would be greatly surprised to find that there's anyone out there who's more disappointed than I in seeing "Miracle at St. Anna". Having served in the military and majored in film while in college I may be a little bit more critical than most viewer's but none the less felt the film to be cartoonish, poorly acted, technically flawed, and historically inaccurate. I actually feel embarrassed for Spike Lee when I think about how he came out and attacked Clint Eastwood during Cannes for his crafting of his war movie "Letters from Imo Jima". In comparing the two films you have to think that Spike was simply trying to get some free publicity because if I didn't know any better I would have thought that Roger Corman had made "Miracle at St. Anna". In fact I find it hard to believe that Spike even had any military technical advisor's let alone any with knowledge of WW2 for this film. The mixing of genres, War, Drama, Comedy, Spiritual, and Supernatural didn't work for me at all. The acting was very, very, very bad. Derek Luke seemed to be reading off of cue-cards and many of the scenes shocked me in being the best available take and the one that actually made it to the screen. The film is so bad it's hard to believe that any scene was shot using more than one take. In Spike's defense and not to totally bash him, it's evident the budget for this film was super low and limited any effort at depicting a modern war film of superior standards such as done with "Saving Private Ryan" or "Letters of Imo Jima". Budget does account for the lack of depth and visual detailing of the film but is no excuse for bad story, acting, and sad to say directing. In also being some what of a student of black history I was extremely disappointed in Spike Lee's stereotypical view and depiction of the black soldier of that time (WW2). One would think by seeing this film that black soldiers in WW2 were simply given uniforms and told to go fight. The film also depicts black soldiers as undisciplined, cowardly, and just plain stupid along with any other stereotype they fought so hard to dispel. If this film is in the least bit accurate in how it depicts black soldiers of WW2 it would mean that the majority of the white stereotypes of the time were justified. My advice to Spike Lee is the same to what I would give Steven Spielberg and to take a nice long look in the mirror and go back to what you use to do best. Lately they both have been loosing their edge and cranking out crap. Just as "Saving Private Ryan" was the last great movie of Spielberg, "He Got Game" was it for Mr. Lee. Unlike Steven Spielberg who has unlimited studio backing and has no reason for churning out a bad film, Spike should understand he was great when he understood his standing with the studios and didn't try to hit an home-run when all he had was double pitched to him. Woody Allen has had one hell of a career knowing this and has never felt that he had to try his hand at making a big-budget blockbuster and staying true to his style. Spike Lee has a style and needs to "please baby, please" re-find it. "Miracle at St. Anna" was garbage and amateur film-making.
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Miracle at St. Anna fails to meet my lofty expectations
Nighthawk18 September 2008
I attended the world premier of Miracle at St. Anna at Toronto International Film Festival. Unfortunately as much as I respect Spike Lee as a filmmaker I thought the movie was a bit dull and kind of boring. At 166 minutes I found that the movie was overlong and dragged too much. I became restless after awhile as the movie progressed. The story didn't seem to go anywhere, was uninteresting and I had trouble connecting with it. It was hard to follow at times as well. The movie jumped all over the place at several points to different years in the history of the characters. I found this to be jarring and irritating. Spike Lee should have taken more time to edit his film because each of the scenes went longer than they should have. It's not the worst movie I have ever seen although it could have been better. My expectations were high. I came away somewhat disappointed.
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Competent, but one of Lee's least achieved films
Argemaluco22 March 2010
Miracle at St. Anna starts like this: retired black soldier Hector Negron (Laz Alonso) is watching the film The Longest Day on TV, which shows John Wayne (1907-1979) heroically fighting on World War II.To the display of North American value and fervent patriotism from white soldiers, Negron says: "We also fought on that war".The next day, he goes to his modest work, which consists on selling stamps in the postal office.Then, a familiar face appears behind the window...and Negron kills him with an old German gun.

After that provocative beginning, I was expecting to see a movie overflowing of the classic racial message from director Spike Lee.However, the ideological excess quickly disappears when the story becomes into a tapestry of cultures and events which do not only celebrate the black soldiers who fought in the war, but also to the brave members from Italian resistance...and even some honourable Nazis who followed orders, but without forgetting the human compassion, and without blindly accepting the ravings from the Führer.

However, those interesting elements also make the movie a bit tiring on some moments.At diverting the attention on tangential situations and individuals to the black regiment, screenwriter James McBride looses the focus on some occasions, and that makes the movie to get a bit boring on those parts.The sub-plot of the "magic" kid is particularly irrelevant and useless, as well as the rivalry between two soldiers for the love of a woman.I know that the dramatic slopes are valid tools frequently employed in Lee's movies; but the result in Miracle at St. Anna was not as good as, for example, in Do the Right Thing or Summer of Sam.

On the positive side from Miracle at St. Anna, we have solid performances, good setting and brutal and realistic battle scenes, which may not reach the level from Saving Private Ryan, but which generate appropriate intensity, chaos and suffering.

I mentioned on other occasions I am a fan of Lee.I understand why his usual position, which is simultaneously challenging and explosive, makes his movies difficult to assimilate by many people.But I think his big talent as a director is undeniable, even if we only take his least political movies (like 25th Hour and Inside Man).Miracle at St. Anna is clearly one of the least achieved films from his career, but that does not mean it is bad at all.In fact, I think the film deserves a recommendation because it is well done and it is generally interesting.However, I cannot deny that with more focus on the screenplay and a stricter edition, this movie could have been much better.
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A major step forward for Lee
brookspeter25 December 2009
Lee makes a European film allowing philosophical questions and moral questions to supplant desire for personal satisfaction and identifiable this is a Spike Lee film signature patterns. There are a number of excellent directorial decisions in this film. Lee's camera is sensitive, gentle and sincere. He shows us the many ways our eyes are deceived and how much of what we perceive is illusion. I think its a great film that is inspirational, has meaning and is both emotionally and intellectually satisfying. I hope that Lee will continue to make films outside his comfort zone and articulate events from the African American experience around the world to show our contribution to history and civilization.
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I really enjoyed this movie
krixxor5 April 2009
I saw the previews for this movie and knew I had to see it. But, when I got to the video store, they only had 2 copies of it, which is usually a sign that the movie wasn't good enough to warrant purchasing more copies. But, the folks at the store have been wrong before, so I took a chance on it. I have to say, this was one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. Yes, Spike Lee was trying to make some statements, but he usually is. The question is, was the movie any good, despite those statements. I definitely thought so. The acting was top notch, the action was good, the story was fantastic, and the characters were really well developed. I'm surprised and shocked that this movie scored as low as it did. I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to write a quick review, which I rarely do. I'm not a huge Spike Lee fan, but this was just a great film, especially if you like character development, and a good story. If you spend your entire time watching this film, trying to dissect the messages in it, you'll simply miss the good parts of the film.
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eye-shuh23 September 2008
I am so very disappointed. Spike Lee, why? You know how movies have little scenes that don't make sense at the time but then all tie in at the end and they give you this awesome "OH!" feeling? This movie had those, but failed at the "OH!". The entire beginning sequence did not belong in the movie. The loose, boring, and un-original tie-in it provided was completely unnecessary to the plot. In fact, if they had skipped the first half hour of horrid over-acting it would have enhanced the plot.

I get it. War is horrible. African Americans were treated like dirt in the 40s. Everybody prays to the same God we're not so different. This movie even failed at making these very easy to portray messages resonate.

Every horrible death/war scene made you feel disgusted and sad and you wanted so badly for everyone to live. Exactly the feelings they should have been going for. BUT THEN they overlaid almost every one of these scenes with a joke! Or some stupidly funny remark or scene. In the end it made you feel disgusted with yourself for laughing while good men are laying dead on the screen. I'm pretty sure making an audience feel disgusted with themselves is not the goal here. And if it was, I have news for the producers/writers/director - we didn't need that lesson. Instead of making me think, it made me wonder what a sick person the writer must be to joke about death and war in such a manner.

Not to mention that the whole middle of the movie was one big black soldier joke. COME ON. Seriously? You seriously needed to through in all those lame silly stereotypes to make us feel for the characters? Your that bad at making movies? It was just an all around bad flick. Even the ending was completely awkward, which ruined any sentiment that should have been there.

A very poorly made and written film.
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Almost excellent.
sheroman7 September 2009
I don't know why everyone here keeps telling that this movie is bad, because it's definitely rather good. Only thing to take out of plot was mas execution of civilians which I couldn't take and just pressed "skip the scene". From the very beginning, where troops advancing to enemy lines got under artillery and machine-gun fire dialogs are interesting and realistic, let alone so called hook from first minutes where black postman kills his customer for no apparent reason. It cost $45M to produce and true that commercially it has become a screw up but not everything revolves around money. I say it has no major faults in plot, definitely no more than any other picture does. And that story with Italian girl - Renata was her name, all is fair in love and war. Definitely worth seeing. Comparison to Save Private Ryan is not applicable.
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I know who the sleeping man is…Miracle at St. Anna
jaredmobarak17 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Spike Lee has left me confused after viewing his new WWII epic Miracle at St. Anna. This film is a jumbled mess of great sequences, surreal moments, and short bridge scenes thrown in to advanced a contrived plot and then left on the floor to possibly come back to at the end. I give the marketing people credit for keeping a veil of intrigue over the movie, never really delving into what the plot truly is. At the heart of the story is a little boy who has experienced a great tragedy, one we can't know until the end, that becomes a good luck charm to a band of four Buffalo Soldiers abandoned in enemy territory because their racist captain didn't believe they could have gotten to the position they were. The boy, young Angelo, is the most important cog in the machine; as much an angel of protection as a boy needing shelter, his inclusion drives the decisions of everyone involved. Some scenes seem to only exist for Lee to infuse a little racially motivated commentary, others are there to create the one event that is necessary to move the plot to where it must go, and yet more that just confuse because of their unnecessary inclusion.

It all starts with a postal teller killing a customer—the two appear to recognize each other—with a German pistol. He shows no remorse for the crime and instead goes to jail without speaking a word. Only when a young newsreporter played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt talks his way into a story by charming a police Detective on the case, John Turturro, does the man open up and speak the words I've used to label this review. The film now transitions to the Italian countryside in the midst of the war, our Buffalo Soldiers trekking along with orders to cross a forthcoming river. You believe this is our postal employee telling the reporter what happened, but when you see the end you will realize it must just be a retelling for the audience. And here is a main flaw for me; a lot of the scenes shown are there for us, thrown on screen to open our eyes to details we don't know. They aren't always fluid, but rather abrupt vignettes that at first seem to be meaningless until they are possibly returned to. Making matters worse is the fact that they are usually inhabited by star cameos, leading the viewer to believe the scene contains important characters, when in fact it appears that Lee just called in a lot of friends.

There is one cameo that works well, but only because he is an integral part to the story. Walter Goggins, with even more redneck sensibilities than his role of Shane in the great "The Shield", plays the racist Captain that leaves our heroes alone in Italy with the Germans hot on their tails. Even so, he could have been anyone too, but I'm glad for Goggins because it's nice to see him on the big screen once in a while. However, the four survivors of an ambush on the 92nd are our main contenders here. And the funny part is that besides Derek Luke, I only had a cursory knowledge of the others, and that was by face recognition only. So, our leads are the no names surrounded by the stars. It's an interesting maneuver, one that just hindered the story being told. It's too bad because the foursome is great across the board; they didn't need the bolstering of familiar faces on the periphery.

With a ton of religious overtones, Omar Benson Miller astonishes with his overabundance of faith. Playing Train, the soldier who finds Angelo and becomes his surrogate father/friend—the young boy's Chocolate Giant—he is a fascinating creature. Kind of like Lennie from "Of Mice and Men", Train has a huge heart that overcomes him at times. The bond with the boy is strong and, in order to protect, will possess him with power, strength, and anger. Like the sleeping man of the mountains, (talk about a heavy-handed comparison by Lee), Train is an invisible warrior with his statue head constantly being rubbed for luck. His faith in God may be childish in nature, but it works as he never gets bogged down by lust and hate like his compatriots. He is just a man trying to survive and watch over his ward.

There is a lot more going on besides the protection of this boy, yet things that come to conclusion because of his presence. He allows the men to join with an Italian family as they nurse him back to health; he is the reason they stay behind against their Captain's orders to evacuate, leading into the best part of the film as the Germans come and take on the four Americans in a thrilling sequence; and he is the reason for a rift in the bond of a group of Partisans, Italians fighting against the Fascists. It all revolves around the child as he plays an unconsciously Jesus role in orchestrating everything. At times I started thinking that maybe he didn't exist at all, maybe he was a manifestation in the story being told, a guardian angel himself for this group of men. Matteo Sciabordi is fantastic, breathing an abundance of life into a boy mired by tragedy in a world imploding around him. I think this could have been a better film if it focused only on his relationship with the soldiers, leaving the flashbacks, the racial politics, and the sub-stories all dancing around on the cutting room floor. As it is now, the sprawling tale is just too much to assimilate when so much is fluff surrounding the power young Angelo holds over the rest.
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Spike Lee's worst film ever!!!
TheQuietStorm12 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I could hear it now. "What? This isn't worse than 'She Hate Me.'" Um, yes it is. The reason why is simple. He wasn't trying as hard with "She Hate Me." In this film, he tried and tried, but in the end, it all went nowhere.

Mr. Lee quarrels with Eastwood about not including black soldiers in both of his World War II (WWII) themed films. "Miracle at St. Anna" was suppose to be his answer to such issues. What baffles me is why would you work so hard in making the black soldiers look so ridiculous in your zeal at showing blacks were there too? From Spike's absurd vision, black soldiers couldn't follow orders, they were always fighting amongst each other and unfocused, lusted after the Caucasian European locals. Whatever happened to the brotherhood of soldiers, watching each other backs and working at preventing your brother from ending up dead? They were buffoons, jealous and fighting like little children. I'm surprised they made it this far without getting killed. If that's how black soldiers behaved in WWII, it would be almost better not to show them, save us from embarrassment.

The most important quality a film can have for me are characters I can empathize with. Not sympathize, empathize. Despite their flaws, do I care or can I connect to them, at least one? One of the major differences between this war film and say, "Saving private Ryan," besides the battle scenes, has to be character connection. I couldn't care less about any of them in MASA. In fact, I didn't like any of them. I found myself wishing for the Germans to come and kill them all, smash cut to the closing of the post office shooting case then end credits immediately after. I was basically wanting the Germans to end the film as soon as possible, saving me from the excruciating pain of watching this steaming pile any further.

In the hands of a more talented director, this film would have humanized the Germans and the Italians just a little more. Just a tad. Unfortunately, Spike thought it would be worth our while seeing these retarded caricatures running around on the screen. The Germans were over-the-top mean, just like the white chief officers in the U.S. Army commanding the Buffalo Soldiers. And they all seem to be vying for the "Stupidest person ever award." Italian villagers who would rather run outside in the midst of gunfire instead of stay in their homes, hide in a closet and STFU. Black soldiers returning armed and dangerous to the diner where they were asked to leave by stereotypical white racist diner owner, basically holding him up for their ice scoops. I mean, come on Spike Lee. And you wonder why Tyler Perry is knocking you out the box? This film is worse than anything TP has ever puked out.

I didn't like the many story lines. It took the film in directions it didn't need to go. I see how they all were relevant to the mystery of the stone head and the post office shooting or whatever, but it didn't matter because the story was nonexistent. Story starts with a through-line for me and this film didn't have one. It was easy to follow. However, if he could have cut a few story lines out, maybe cramming them down to montages or something, and shave a few of them down, it would've been shorter, much more tolerable film.

The performances were stiff and flat. However, I wouldn't completely blame the actors for this. They were working with one dimensional characters. In fact, from what I heard, the main actors weren't inspired by the material.

I also had a major problem with the dialogue. If the characters weren't saying anything absurd and ignorant, most of the time running their mouths about nothing, then they were preaching. In fact, I would dare to say this is Spike Lee's preachiest film ever.

Also, Spike Lee lost his sense of humor and it's evident in his work these days. All attempts to be funny failed miserably. I was so annoyed. Lighten up.

As for the technical aspects, well, I should start with the editing. The film should have been cut down. The battle scenes looked like they were shot by some amateur, film school student. Wasn't it Ebert that likened the battle scenes to that of "Saving Private Ryan"? Ebert is losing it. He has that neck brace thingy he wears too tight around his neck. It's cutting off circulation to his brain. I mean, I saw the amputee's arm blow off before the grenade hit and explode. WTF? It was all so laughable. The cinematography was terrible. The music was horrid. And I don't know about you, but I am sick and tired of Spike Lee's tight shots on inanimate objects and symbols, cutting them right in during the scene, like the tight shots on the German medals. He does this all too often. It's corny. Ugh.

The biggest problem with the film was the believability aspect of it all. I wasn't buying anything. I didn't believe the black soldiers were soldiers. I didn't believe it was 1940 something, war torn Italy. I didn't believe the drama. I never once believed they were shooting or bombing anything, something I never felt before watching any war film. Maybe because previous war films never had constant bombs going off around the main characters for no reason. Unnecessary. I couldn't believe the characters were so stupid. I didn't believe the Italian woman would be remotely interested in Ealy when she seemed more engaged with Derek Luke's character.

And I'm sorry. What you may call a miracle, I call a contrivance, just another contribution to the overall lack of believability of this crappy film.
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An Unbelievably sloppy mess.
TheEmulator2322 February 2009
Unbelievably sloppy. That sums up this mess of a film. The Buffalo soldiers are a fascinating bunch of men it's a shame that this is the end product. "Saving Private Ryan" tells a great story about men storming the beaches & the liberating Europe & you would hope this would do the follow a similar story. Every time you think this story might move forward into a comprehensible story, it doesn't. I understand that racism was huge, but my god Spike Lee seems to add just a little bit more. This is quite possibly one of the nicest looking bad movies I've seen this year. The dialog is ridiculous & it proves again that a poor script can make a good actor such as Michael Ealy from the excellent show "Sleeper Cell" sound like an idiot. Whoever cast Omar Benson Miller should be fired because he sticks out like a sore thumb in a bunch sore fingers. It's not all his fault, because the absurdity of some of things he is spewing is laughably bad. I'm a WWII history buff although admittedly the Italian Campaign is one of the areas I know the least. You keep hoping that there is going to be some truth & maybe even some information about exactly what might have happened, it fails to deliver a resemblance of anything. Spike Lee needs to get w/the time & stop exaggerating everything. I don't just mean race. It's called a script. The 1st hour of this film could have been cut to 10 minutes MAXIMUM & you would have gotten the gist. Instead you have a rambling & meandering film that you have know idea where it's going & once it's there you can't believe you spent almost 3 hours on nothing! This is a huge misstep & does not do justice to those Men who were involved. I would be ashamed to show this to those that fought in Italy no matter what there color because it's that bad. I love WWII films when they are done well, & you would think I'm being overly critical because of my knowledge of the war but I assure you that you should skip this. Apparently they have yet to do a good film about this subject which is a shame, but maybe someday someone will approach this subject with the seriousness it deserves.
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Maybe not the best war film ever made but still worth watching.
cacophony27 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Biggest comment about this movie was that the tone was much darker than I anticipated based on the trailers I saw. However, it was still fascinating and well-done. People talk about it being long but I didn't realize it was almost 3 hours until I walked out and didn't feel like I'd been in the theater that long. I liked that it felt very authentic and was not dumbed-down to please American audiences, referring specifically to that fact that much of the dialogue was in Italian or German. There were a lot of subplots that didn't come together until near the end and that made the film intriguing and sometimes suspenseful. I thought it was interesting how religion seemed to connect strangers on both sides of the conflict. The one major problem was I didn't understand was why the Italian girl slept with Bishop when earlier she seemed really annoyed with him and enamored with Stamps. Moreover, this love triangle seemed to distract from the plot without adding substance. The scene at the soda shop was maybe a little superfluous too and I was expecting Gordon-Levitt to be a larger player. Overall, though, this is a powerful, fascinating film.
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Rent it. Buy it. Watch it every year.
danceability-130 November 2009
Rent it. Buy it. Watch it every year.

AMAZING MOVIE!!!! I can't understand the negative reviews. It's an amazing movie. This is a prime example of why not to listen to critics. A complex and touching film. Don't read the reviews, be your own judge.

I am trying to build a tradition around Memorial Day that involves watching a movie that carefully portrays the sacrifice made by those we are supposed to remember on this holiday. I just watched Miracle at St. Anna and have decided to add it to the list alongside Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, We Were Soldiers, etc. The story of those four soldiers and the people they encountered is powerful. Fighting for your country when your country doesn't have your back is something I can't imagine and yet it happens. So many have been in this position, faced it and died. It brings tears to my eyes. Everyone should see this movie. Everyone should answer the question, "how can I put an end to racism?" and then act on that answer.

danceability-1 Amsterdam, Holland
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Not Happy
amornegro27 September 2008
As a black man who fully believes in black pride and progress, I must say I am truly disappointed with spike lee's new movie right now. I don't know where to begin in regards to expressing my disappointment but I will try. Considering how spike tries to come off as being very afro-centric, his portrayal of black characters was very insulting. There were so many typical blacks in film stereotypes in the movie that I just shook my head most of the time. For instance you had a black man with a gold tooth and stocking cap on, another that was enormous in size but brainless and country, and then to put the cherry on top the 2 guys are fighting over a white woman they met like 2 days ago and kept drooling over. Contrary to popular belief most of the white American soldiers didn't look like the actors in the movies made in the 50's and 60's. The actors looks were ploy to just associate good looks and chivalry with American soldiers in order to build moral for soldiers when they left and came home and to keep ppl interested in the movie. Another thing that really bothered me was that black films don't always need to be funny or trying to evoke laughter. This movie was suppose to be dramatic touching upon a serious subject and should have been directed in the same manner. Then the scoring of the movie was horrible. Even the little parts where he tries to show difference between African Americans and black puerto ricans was off and unnecessary. During that time those hispanics that were black or mulatto didn't try to act like there was a difference between the 2 other than language and maybe certain foods because they faced the same discriminations in PR, DR, and CUBA as in the US. These are just some of the issues I had with this movie. I think antoine faqua, who did training day and arthur, should have done this movie. I am just waiting now to see the mockery of hannibal that vin diesel does.
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I never even knew it was a Spike film!!!!
reynaldopichardo27 May 2009
Hardly there are a handful of films that can bring shortness of breath and bring tears from my eyes!!! This film based solely on pure imagination centered on the spiritual and sometimes weird beliefs of people, forces your own common sense to accept the unthinkable: That miracles and imaginary people are something we can believe on, when we so choose to.

The emotional stress claims first row not sooner than the few first scenes take center stage. A senseless act of violence with little to support it leaves an empty taste to viewers, which are trying to think with natural logic and mental coherence seeking grips.

As the story is unfurls, the sense of lost disappears soon after we're taken into a recall mode. One that's like taking a five lane highway and compressing all that energy into a single one.

Spike plays with our emotions, just as some entertainment parks seek explosions of adrenaline with their twisting rides.

By the very end of the film one can hardly contain the emotions emanating, just as we were part of the four providing a way out to such fragile and innocent kid. We're shocked as to how can there be any possibility, that this first violent act could have been the actual doing of a survivor for the story.

If one ever wondered about the possibility of a film cascading each category we base such productions on, this is one of the few to ever try that formula and succeed where others failed.

For a short time, even the viewer will toss away common sense and want to believe as well.
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the best of Spike Lee's misfires - it's not a good movie, but it's too passionate and powerful to call really 'bad'
Quinoa198427 September 2008
Sometimes a true-blue filmmaker, full of art-filled aspirations and good intentions, isn't always the best judge of what will ultimately really work for the story. This has happened to Spike Lee on more than one occasion- this taking aside the fact that he has consistently puffed-up many of his films lenght-wise- and in Miracle at St. Anna he makes an admirable, powerful stumble. It's not embarrassing like Bamboozled or just laughable like She Hate Me; he has a goal here, and it's worth trying out. The message is made right in the first scene: John Wayne war movies are propagandistic drek that show really only one side. Spike Lee's 'version' of black soldiers embedded in a Tuscan village in WW2 is meant to be an antidote to all of those pompous, (practically) white-only war pictures. The problem is that he hasn't done much to advance the genre, or break out of anything really interesting with the bulk of the characters.

Ironic then that Lee should criticize Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers since both films suffer from similar faults: they're too long, too convoluted, occasionally far too schmaltzy, and whether by partnership (being co-produced by Spielberg himself) or just ripping-off, Saving Private Ryan is evoked more than once in the battle scenes. In the case of Lee's film, he also isn't entirely sure always how he wants to ground the picture: is it about the black soldiers on their quagmire of sorts, or about the little boy who nicknames the big friendly black soldier "Chocolate Giant", or about Partisans and their daring-do and corruption alongside the Nazi's? Or is it about believing in frigging miracles? Lee wants it to be about all of these things, and has made the running time of 160+ minutes so that he can fit as much as possible with pretty much anything and everything from James McBride's book packed in (this even includes anachronisms, like a German officer referring to the Geneva conventions!)

And while it is easy to criticize Lee for putting in so much, and overcrowding the mid-section of his picture (and eventually coming to some real head-scratching, groan-inducing bits towards the very end), there is passionate film-making on display. There are chunks that are compelling, that do convey the blatant racism that was pervasive at the time for anyone with dark skin color (albeit Lee stuffs in next to no white people who aren't dumb bigots), and the as-a-given brutality of the Nazi war machine. There's one particular scene, I should note where an entire town is massacred, that delivers the devastating effect Lee wants, and there are a couple others like it that deliver the visceral reaction intended with modern war pictures.

For all of its faults, for all of its hackneyed acting- including one guy who seems like a WW2 version of the Alpa Chino character from Tropic Thunder complete with gold tooth- and bits involving a precocious kid communicating by tapping, and for its mind-boggling plot twists, it is often well-directed and conscious of its message. It's a disappointment, to be certain, but there's worse. 5.5/10
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An Epic film in search of a miracle...
higherall713 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Let me first of all start by saying that Spike Lee is an auteur, in the same class as Woody Allen or Francois Truffaut, but depending upon the subject matter, this can work for or against you. He has an original way of looking at things and an original point of view to express. This is in full evidence when you watch the film 'MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA', which unfortunately fails to address its subject matter with the appropriate tone suitable to the massacre of over nine hundred people. There is a bleakness about the deaths of hundreds of people in one horrific incident that demands it assume the foreground and not the background.

The experience of catharsis in the Theater is a communal experience. Such an experience reminds one that the word 'religion' is rooted in an earlier word that can rightly be translated to mean 'community'. Catharsis was meant in ancient times to purge the community of unwholesome feeling and to act as a kind of therapy to lift the mind to a state bordering on philosophic reflection. The aim was to free all of cloying emotion in such a way that the community could see Life as it is and yet feel fortified to go on with their own lives.

Cinema does not aim or intend to achieve catharsis so much as it strives for a visual grasp upon the noumenal at its best, and the arousal of such kinetic emotions as makes one's heart race or causes one to hold their breath in its more commercial uses. However, an auteur will often roll the dice and find himself flirting with the phenomenon of catharsis in film and even rubbing shoulders with the noumenal. This has happened at times in Spike Lee films and been handled with varying degrees of success.

'MALCOLM X' did not get my last half of a star as a fully fledged four star movie because I could sense the ending was too celebratory and after seeing yet another black man sacrificed in the prime of his life and at the height of his powers for the sacred cause of greater Human Freedom, a moment of silence and more was probably most appropriate and fitting. The catharsis was spoiled by what seemed to be the attitude, "-alright! Let's boogie for the man!" and the reference to 'SPARTACUS' with the little African and African American school children declaring 'I AM MALCOLM X!' There were other shortcomings to this flawed masterpiece, but many of these were temptations any artist might succumb to and so Lee could be given leeway with them.

'HE GOT GAME' ran to an ending that was more in keeping with what film can do and flirted with that concept of the noumenal. 'GET ON THE BUS' presented an interesting range of characters and came to a resolution that was really suited to its subject matter. 'MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA' was another opportunity for Spike Lee to stretch himself, but the characters are not as well drawn as in 'GET ON THE BUS', nor does the resolution leave one with the feeling of a full emotional discharge. One feels still 'worked up' as I did at the ending of 'MALCOLM X', although I could not deny it was a great show and a memorable experience.

'MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA' is a wonderfully photographed and visually arresting film and yet it feels all stirred up without all its elements being properly rendered and clarified. Corporal Hector Negron's story, instead of bookending the film should have run intermittently parallel with the story building up to the massacre at St. Anna. This would have given the audience time to develop some background on the relationship between Negron and the Traitor. The shooting instead of occurring at the beginning should have happened at the end after the massacre and the formulaic Hollywood Happy Ending should have been eschewed. This would have been in keeping with the bleakness of the subject matter. Before all this as well, Director Spike Lee and Writer James McBride should have established for the film at least what 'the miracle' was going to be, as it should have been something a little bit more substantial that a half a dozen incidents that might vaguely suggest themselves.

A few other things are worthy of note. One of the things no filmmaker has captured to my satisfaction is the sullen residual dignity I have often seen in the faces of particularly urban blacks. I have often seen them on the bus, coming home late at night from their work shift wearing no social masks and there is a visual beauty to that I have never seen captured on the screen. It is similar to the way Kirk Douglas was photographed at the end of 'PATHS OF GLORY' and the way the waiters in 'A FACE IN THE CROWD' kept their cool when Andy Griffith was berating them for not 'loving' him enough. Spike Lee even touched upon it a little in a prison yard scene in 'MALCOLM X', but as I indicated, it is not anger exactly, but a dignity that cannot be effaced by event or circumstance.

The other thing is that the delight and glory of interracial romance is one thing, and properly treated it can have dramatic value, but it has yet to be approached with any real subtlety or nuance in the films of Spike Lee or others for anything other than shock and controversy. Here in 'MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA' it comes across as obligatory and yet at the same time as nonsequitur as it was in 'SWEET-SWEETBACK'S BAAAD ASSSSS SONG'. Unfortunately, the shroud of death should cloak this film because nearly a thousand people are about to violently lose their lives, along with four Buffalo Soldiers on the wrong side of an offensive.

That deserves a moment of silent prayer more than a hymn or gospel song.
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A Human depiction of War, like you would see in Hemingway!
dbroggi11 September 2015
It is really sad that very few people enjoyed this movie. I've just watched it and was quite amazed. The first scene in the post office was just outstanding, it got me right away. The camera was quite different from what you see in the USA normally, perhaps RAI has something to do with it. But the greatest thing about the movie were the characters. Some might say they were overacting, I say they portrayed people at war. It reminded me of For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Hemingway. I know the book is set in the Spanish Civil War instead of the Italian WW2 campaign, but the tone was quite similar in some ways. They both deal with the partisan fight, prejudice, the dehumanizing face of war and even the incredible capacity some people have to resist the war impetus to transform us into monsters. Very passionate, very human, very good!
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