Miracle at St. Anna (Spike Lee) 2008

Production Budget:  $45,000,000 (estimated)
Opening weekend $3.5 million

I admire the intention behind Spike on making this movie.  We really don’t see the contribution of African American soldiers in war movies for the most part (The Tuskegee Airmen and Glory being the whole two I can think of).  But like with many of Spike Lee’s movies, his ambition can far out step his actual abilities.  The first problems was with picking a fight with Clint Eastwood.  Instead of speaking on the genre as a whole, he had a public b*tch fest with Clint.  The end result being many people telling Spike to STFU and the more lasting damage is people not seeing Miracle at St. Anna.

Miracle begins with a postal worker killing an unknown man at his office.  When police search the postal worker’s home, they find a rare Italian statue head worth millions.  We are then given a flashback of a four soldiers from the Buffalo Soldier regiment getting caught behind enemy lines.  The men are in an Italian village which is surrounded by Nazi army units.

The trailers give people the wrong impression that this movie will be some BIG mystery.  There is no complex labyrinth plot to why the man had the head or why the postal worker murders the other man.  It’s all pretty straightforward and is figured out quickly. So why bill it as the mystery of the century?  F*ck if I know.

The plot is actually the worst part of the movie.  It is insultingly simple and it makes you wonder why it takes 2 hours and 40 minutes to tell.  The part that sucks the most is our “heroes” don’t really do anything.  They get trapped in this town and they spend the rest of the movie b*tching about what they should do: should they try to go back to their regiment or hole up in the town till it all blows over.  THAT’S IT!  They b*tch and b*tch and b*tch and it makes you wonder what story of “incredible bravery” Spike Lee is really trying to tell us.  What’s sad is the story of the Italian partisans is 100 times more interesting than the story of the Buffalo soldiers.  I wanted to watch a whole movie of the partisan known as “Butterfly” fighting Nazis in the mountains of Italy.  Its a hell of a lot more interesting than the story of the statue head.

What grinds the movie down to a dead stop is a bizarre love triangle between two of the soldiers and an Italian woman in the village.  Its a love triangle that doesn’t even make any sense.  That’s gotta be the first time I have been confused by a love triangle subplot, but it is so poorly written an executed it had me throwing my hands up in the air and asking WTF?

Really the story is terribly dull because we have seen this story in a million WWII movies that we can recite the twists and turns by heart.  This is the Cliffs Notes version or the Idiot’s Guide to WWII movies.  There is nothing interesting or new to separate it from everything else.

So let’s talk about the race angle, because that is the one thing which does make it different.  Well, its Spike Lee, so the racial undertones are about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the balls.  I realize people in the 40’s were more open in their racism so I’m not surprised many of the people in the movie use the N word.  But did we really have to make the white colonel the biggest racist to walk the Earth to nail home the point?  Just picture the biggest hillbilly redneck, racial epithet spewing, Klansman (just a hood short) to order our characters around.  I realize I am saying this to Spike Lee, but how bout a little more subtlety?

My first red flag came when Jeffrey Lyons called it the best movie of 2008.  Jeffrey Lyons is the most reliable movie critic in the world…if you do the opposite of everything he says.  He is a man so impressively wrong that you would do well to stay as far away from his advice as you can.  Now Miracle at St. Anna isn’t the worst movie of the year.  There are parts I liked about it such as the partisan subplot and the interactions between Train and the child (and the payoff of the child subplot).  The story is so long and stock that it feels like you have seen this movie a million times before.  Its not the worst movie of the year, but lets just say its not good.


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