Miracle at St. Anna (USA, 2008)

5-1439731hDirected by: Spike Lee. I’m just starting to appreciate how incredibly unique a voice Spike Lee has. I’ve seen a few of his films, including the incredible Do the Right Thing, but it wasn’t until this film, a World War II movie completely unlike any other, that I started to realize that he actually sees things in a different way from most filmmakers. I’ve seen some war movies in my day, and it’s usually the same old “War is hell but these guys are great” shtick. This one kind of barks up that tree a little bit, but somehow the whole religious angle really throws a wrench into the whole thing. It’s not really a “war movie” in the sense of big battles, etc, although you do see a bit of that. Mostly it’s about racial relations, the strife that people go through (including the Italian family and the Partisans with their infighting), but mostly mostly, it’s about faith. This is really just a little story about the dimwitted Train, the “Chocolate Giant” and his Italian adopted son, their mutual incomprehension and their great bond, a funny little relationship in movies if ever you saw one. But really, these two share a lot of screen time with the other four or five little relationships that the movie is concerned with. Looking back, this is actually a bunch of plots and relationships and even different genres jammed together in a way that somehow really works and flows. I remember now that Do the Right Thing did the same thing eschewing a single focal point for lots of little ones, a little effort towards democracy that is truly novel in Hollywood film. I’m not sure it always works, and I’m not sure if it works in this film, but if the result is either this film or another goddamn Spielberg/Hanks/Eastwood “great man” wank fest, then this is a welcome breath of fresh air. Great to see little bit parts for John Hawkes, John Turturro and Joseph Gordon Levitt, all capable gentlemen in their own right. And of course, all of the African American actors and Italians and Germans were really solid. Other than the Train—Omar Benson Miller—I’m not sure how great the roles themselves were for that core cast, but it’s a nice cast anyway. Tick this one off the Spike Lee filmography and keep on going, I say.

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