Miracle at St. Anna

Movies Reviews Spike Lee
Miracle at St. Anna

Release Date: Sept. 26

Director: Spike Lee

Writers: James McBride

Cinematographer: Matthew Libatique

Starring: Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller

Studio/Run Time: Touchstone Pictures, 160 mins.

A lot of words come to mind when discussing Spike Lee’s work as a director: “bold,” “daring,” “controversial”—the list goes on.Twenty five years of directing hasn’t dulled his edge, and Lee remains as much a director to watch today as he was a decade ago.Even his most strikingly bad movies have been filled with some of the strongest, most visceral images ever put to celluloid.Unfortunately, Miracle at St. Anna adds a new word to Lee’s vocabulary, one that many thought would never be there: “boring.”

The film’s setup feels like it should be a cakewalk for Lee, one he could put through his head and pull out something new and extraordinary.It focuses on the all-black 92nd Infantry Division during WWII.The group is sent into battle because of poor (white) leadership and is mostly decimated, but a small group crosses enemy lines.They’re told to search for intelligence by interrogating a German soldier and along the way find themselves within the heart of Italian culture with custody of a little boy.While this setup is fine, it isn’t sufficient for 160 minutes of film, and St. Anna ends up bifurcated between war epic and small drama, letting the viewer down on both fronts.

A lot of this disappointment seems due to Lee himself.St. Anna’s battle scenes are frustratingly dull to the point of incompetence.Rather than playing up the seriousness of its situation, the film spends much of its time wallowing in subpar slapstick and out-of-place humor.Tone isn’t the film’s only problem though, as its stock characters seem like they were taken straight out of 1930s war flicks.Its take on race within the ranks is surprisingly facile and undeveloped, and even that seems accomplished compared to its score.The one true Spike Lee moment, where a Nazi woman speaks over the radio to soldiers about their history of mistreatment in America, feels bittersweet because its placement early in the film acts as a constant reminder of what this project could have been throughout.

Even with its many flaws, Lee is an apt enough storyteller to soften some of St. Anna’s more egregious flaws with expressive camerawork and beautiful composition.But this isn’t enough, not even by a long shot.The combination of Lee’s concerns for his characters’ depictions with Disney’s concerns for mass-market appeal ends up pleasing no one.Instead of adding some depth to a corporate movie, it ends up creating a deadening middle-ground that’s a disappointment to those wishing for a heartwarming Hollywood film or a provocative take on the war.

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