MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA Add To My Top 10
Release Date: September 26, 2008
Starring: Derek Luke, Omar Benson Miller, Laz Alonso, Michael Ealy, Matteo Sciabordi, Valentina Cervi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Sergio Albelli, Walton Goggins, Kerry Washington, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and John Turturro
Genre: War Drama
Audience: Older teenagers to adults
Runtime: 160 minutes
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures/Walt Disney Company
Director: Spike Lee
Executive Producer: Marco Valerio Pgini and Jon Kilik
Writer: James McBride
Address Comments To:Robert Iger, President/CEO, The Walt Disney Company
(Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Miramax Films, and Buena Vista Distribution)
Dick Cook, Chairman, The Walt Disney Studios
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
Phone: (818) 560-1000
The movie opens in 1983 with an elderly black postal clerk in New York shooting an elderly Italian immigrant in cold blood. As a reporter investigates the story behind the murder, the movie cuts to 1944 Italy during World War II. While crossing a river, a bloody massacre of an all-black 92nd Division Buffalo Soldiers occurs when their white artillery commander doesn’t believe one man’s report of their position.
Four black soldiers, however, manage to make it to the German side of the river. They find themselves trapped behind enemy lines when one of them, Private Sam Train, rescues an Italian boy who has been driven mad by a terrible trauma of some kind. Train is a simple-minded Christian with a childlike faith. He believes the boy has been touched by Jesus.
The four soldiers, led by a compassionate, intelligent sergeant named Stamps, find their way to an Italian village abandoned by the Germans for the time being. The villagers welcome them, including a beautiful young woman named Renata whose elderly father is a fascist. The radio man among the four black soldiers, a Puerto Rican Catholic named Hector, finally gets hold of their commander, who orders them to capture a German soldier, to get information about German plans.
In the village, the soldiers also encounter a group of Italian partisan fighters, who have been betrayed by one of their own. The resistance fighters bring in a German soldier who has gone AWOL. The soldier recognizes the little boy protected by Private Train. This sets the stage for a final betrayal when the German forces mobilize for a final assault on the American forces across the river.
MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA starts off slowly. One scene early on is almost completely gratuitous and unnecessary. Once the viewer comes to know the four soldiers and the Italians they encounter, the movie becomes thoroughly captivating. Many of the movie’s images of the brutality of war, including the flashback of a massacre by the Germans of an Italian priest and his flock, are absolutely heartbreaking. In another scene, Spike Lee shows a thrilling, soul-stirring montage of different groups saying a Christian prayer, including a platoon of black troops behind American lines, the Italian partisans and the captured German soldier. All this is quite moving and eloquent.
The whole cast here does a brilliant job. The best of the best are probably Derek Luke as Sgt. Stamps, Omar Benson Miller as Private Train and Matteo Sciabordi as Angelo, the little Italian boy. It is their stories and their performances that hold the movie together. Then, in the movie’s climactic scenes, Laz Alonso as Hector, the Catholic soldier, becomes the viewer’s emotionally powerful guide, setting the stage for the story’s denouement.
MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA has a very strong Christian worldview that’s ultimately very inspiring. This positive side of the movie is diminished, however, by graphic war violence, lots of strong foul language and some sexual content, including a scene with upper female nudity. This content requires extreme caution, even for older viewers (see CONTENT section above for details).
In the movie’s other content, Private Train believes that the head of an Italian statue he carries has some mystical power from God. The marble head becomes a strange talisman for Train. Also, the movie seems to excuse some morally questionable behavior by some characters, including at the end. This can lead to antinomianism, the false doctrine that God’s basic moral laws are not universally applicable.
In spite of all this, an image of the Cross of Jesus plays an important symbolic role in the movie’s very last scene. This is followed by a choir singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” over the end credits. The movie’s ultimate focus, therefore, is on God and Jesus, and on compassion and love. Hence, the movie’s wonderful title, MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA.
MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA is a very powerful movie showing the brutality of war, laced with a stunning, impressive, eloquent, and ultimately inspiring spirituality. The cast, coached by director Spike Lee, does a brilliant job. The movie has a very strong Christian worldview that ultimately focuses on God and Jesus, and on compassion and love. It contains, however, plenty of very strong war violence, foul language and some sexual content, including brief explicit nudity. This warrants extreme caution, even for older viewers.