Miracle at St. AnnaDirected by: Spike Lee Cast: Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller Time: 2 hours and 40 mins Rating: R
Plot: A group of four African American soldiers are behind enemy lines in Tuscany, Italy during World War II. There lives are drastically changed when one of them decides to risk his life to save an Italian boy.
Who’s It For? First and foremost, it's a war movie. The twist in the beginning is almost forgotten as we're placed. There is a hint of romance, a lot of racism and some vicious violent war scenes.
Expectations: Inside Man shocked me with Lee's changed style. Plus, the screenplay is written by James McBride who wrote the novel. Normally that is a good sign that the vision of the story will remain intact.
Actors: Derek Luke as Aubrey Stamps: Every moment of racial tension is captured by Derek as the soldier who plays it straight while dealing with the racist commander. It's easy to root for Stamps, who believes his involvement in the war is a step toward racial equality even with being able to experience an odd freedom while in Italy. Score: 6
Michael Ealy as Bishop Cummings: He's slick. Stamps would probably say they are complete opposites. Bishop even has time to attempt to hit on Renata (Valentina Cervi), the only one in the town who speaks a little English. The potential love triangle with the two of them and Stamps never once felt like it belonged in the film. Score: 6
Laz Alonso as Hector Negron: Luckily, he knows a little Italian, which allows him to communicate with the town. Otherwise, he definitely had the least to do out of the four soldiers, almost to the point that is felt odd it is his experience to tell. Score: 5
Omar Benson Miller as Sam Train: The sweetness and emotion is generated completely through Sam as his relationship with Angelo (Matteo Sciabordi), the young boy. The Chocolate Giant became a hint repetitive, and it's tough to judge the level of intelligent with this soldier. It's hard to shake the thoughts of Bufford "Bubba" Blue or Lennie from Of Mice and Men. Score: 6
Talking: I love learning about our history through films, so when German propaganda is piped through speakers, attempting to convince black soldiers to abandon the war it's truly interesting. But then there are odd tangents, never fully explained like Peppi the Great Butterfly (Pierfrancesco Favino) and his part in the war. Also, the racist ice cream parlor owner seems like something that could have been left on the cutting room floor. Score: 5
Sights & Sounds: Italy looks fantastic through the rubble and the war scenes have as much impact as Saving Private Ryan, though that is something we have come to expect. The film's score on the other hand seems oddly basic. The music switches from whimsical to Italian moment to American moment with no real depth. Score: 7
Best Scene: The soldiers slowly cross the river toward the German army, amidst the speaker's blaring propaganda. There is no rushing, and the audience is given a chance to feel exactly what the African American solider was up against during the war.
Ending: We all saw this coming, right? Flash back to the 80s, and there is an expected reunion. It left me kind of detached that it came down to money, instead of the truth, being the most important part of the successful reunion.
Questions: Hector was shot at, and only his radio looked to be hit, so why didn't the German continue to attack? Also, who's story is this? Bishop and Stamps are the emotional leaders of this group, and we aren't just watching Hector's point of view. And is Hector just carrying that gun with him every day of his life out of protection or vengeance?
Rewatchability: It's 2 hours and 40 mins. Plus, there are a few war time images that you don't necessarily want to see again so this falls under the category of a one time viewing.
OVERALL Spike Lee's directorial life changed with Inside Man. No longer is he first and foremost an African American director crafting beautiful, racially charged films. He also became mainstream. Here, he tries to marry the two styles with Miracle at St. Anna. The story is disjointed enough to where I wasn't sure who were the important figures. John Turturro, John Leguizamo and Joseph Gordon-Levitt all give blink-and-you-miss-it performances in the beginning, which left me wanting more from those characters. And the statue head doesn't even sure it's purpose as a mysterious object. About half way through it becomes clear to me that the ending doesn't matter compared to the journey, I just don't know if Lee feels the same way. This story would have been better served as a mini-series on HBO.