Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Miracle At St. Anna

While I do think that he is just as guilty of the racism that he attributes to everyone else, when Spike Lee makes a film, I go to the theater and watch it. He has a peculiar and interesting voice, and I really feel like he's one of the few independent's left where it feels like an event when they do something. Even She Hate Me, which was not a very good film, seemed like an event at the time.

His newest, Miracle at St. Anna, is a sprawling epic, at least for Spike Lee it is, about a group of black soldiers in World War 2, who, after surviving a Nazi barrage during a river crossing, somehow manage to make it to a small Italian village, where they hole up until they can get rescued. Now, the trailer would have you believe that the film is about the miraculous power of a statue's severed head that one of the soldier's carries around with him, but, oddly enough, the head really doesn't add up to much more than a device that Lee uses to brush aside some of the more other worldly moments in the film. How can a soldier, who shouldn't have the strength to do so, be able to save a little boy from some beams that have fallen on him, and for all intents and purposes should be too heavy for the soldier to lift? Well, he has a magic marble statue head, of course. And what saved the same soldier from getting shot during the river crossing, even though the guys got to be seven feet tall and three hundred pounds? He has a magical, marble head. The examples go on the film, but one has to wonder what the necessity of the head really was. You could have told the entire story without said head, and it would have made a lot more sense, and you wouldn't have risked the hokey ending that kind of ruined all of the credit Lee built up with the audience with the final shoot out scene. The four soldiers this follows were great - Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, and Omar Benson Miller, and I hope to see all of them in future roles. 

Ultimately, I liked Miracle at St. Anna, but the two things that took this film from a great film to a mediocre film were the statue head sub plot, and the over long middle section of the film. Lee builds up a lot of excitement and pleasure during the opening sequences of the film, and does an incredible job with the final shoot out, but the middle section just feels over long and a little boring. There's a lot of things in the story that make sense, but after watching it, you kind of end up wondering - Who cares? Am I supposed to care that Bishop slept with the girl that Stamps liked? or that Train develops a father like relationship with the boy he rescues? And what of the Italian Partisans? They just seem like a device to connect some things together. In fact, there are a lot of things that seem like devices to connect things together.

I don't know... It's a film that I like, but I see a lot of flaws in. Lee has done a lot better, and will continue to do better, but Miracle at St. Anna is definitely not his worst.

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