Spike Lee’s WWII Saga comes to DVD
Adapted by James McBride from his best-seller of the same name, Miracle at St. Anna chronicles the exploits of an all-black squad stationed in Italy during World War II. This character-driven saga specifically telescopes in on the plight of a quartet of enlisted men separated from their decimated unit and forced to survive by their wits in a tiny Tuscan village located behind enemy lines.
Each of the four protagonists represents a readily-recognizable archetype, starting with Aubrey Stamps (Derek Luke), the prototypical no-nonsense Staff Sergeant and highest ranking officer. Then there’s the preacher-turned-playboy Bishop Cummings (Michael Ealy), gentle giant Sam Train (Omar Benson Miller) and Puerto Rican Hector Negron (Laz Alonso), a Corporal who adds a little Latin flava’.
The flashback flick opens and closes in New York City in 1983, courtesy of a wraparound featuring sixty-something Negron going postal just three months before his planned retirement. Was there perhaps a valid reason for his seemingly inexplicable violent outburst?
While only indirectly addressing the solution to that mystery, the multi-layered plot concerns itself with threading in an array of complicated sidebars. One involves Private Train’s adopting a boy (Matteo Sciabordi) orphaned by a Nazi massacre. Another pits gentlemanly Sgt. Stamps against the womanizing Bishop in a love/lust triangle for the affections of the most attractive lass (Valentina Cervi) in town. The third strand raises the question of the trustworthiness of the leader (Pierfrancesco Favino) of the local cell of the anti-Fascist resistance.
The value of this seminal contribution to cinema lies in its groundbreaking portrayal of the Second World War from the heretofore unseen perspective of African-American soldiers. An overdue history lesson about the indelible stain left by Jim Crow on the conflicted minds of black men forced to wage a white man’s war when they’d really rather be fighting for their own civil rights.
Excellent (3.5 stars)
R for graphic war violence, profanity, ethnic slurs, nudity and sexual content.
Running time: 160 minutes
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: None.
To see a trailer for Miracle at St. Anna,