Spike Lee's take on the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City during the summer of 1977 centering on the residents of an Italian-American Northeast Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another.
Christmas, 1983. A New York postal clerk, a Buffalo Soldier in Italy in World War II, shoots a stranger. In his apartment, police find a valuable Italian marble head, missing since the war. Flashbacks tell the story of four Black soldiers who cross Tuscany's Serchio River, dodging German and friendly fire. With a shell-shocked boy in tow, they reach the village of Colognora. Orders via radio tell them to capture a German soldier for questioning about a counteroffensive. In the village, a beautiful woman, partisans that include a traitor and a local legend, the boy, and the story of a recent massacre connect to the postal worker's anguish forty years later. And the miracle?Written by
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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