Mediocrity at St. Anna

Miracle at St. AnnaSpike Lee(Touchstone Pictures)2.5 StarsUpon hearing the words “Spike Lee” and “World War II” in the same sentence, it is hard not to have lofty expectations for Lee’s latest film “Miracle at St. Anna.” However, these hopes are quickly dashed; with all the ingredients to be an amazing film, “Miracle at St. Anna” disappointingly falls way below the standards Lee set for himself with box office hits like “She’s Gotta Have It” and “Do the Right Thing.” The movie begins with an inexplicable 1983 murder in a New York post office, followed by the discovery of a Roman artifact in the perpetrator’s home. Via an extended flashback, the main plot unfolds while following four black soldiers of the 92nd “Buffalo Soldier” battalion in Tuscany during World War II. They find themselves behind German lines after one of them saves the life of an Italian boy.Lee expectedly makes the issue of race a prominent feature in the film. In some instances, there are brief discussions of rhetoric that actually flow fairly well in the story, while at other times they are a constant reminder of just how ignorant and prejudiced our society used to be. This is undoubtedly true, and sometimes in the film it is painful to see the extent of some of the racism that Lee portrays. However, much of the dis?course comes off as forced and unnecessary in an already lengthy film. “Miracle at St. Anna” stretches close to three hours, which would be fine, if it were warranted.In this case, there are many scenes that do not add anything, in fact most serve to clutter the storyline and are the reasons that the movie is less than stellar. Lee consistently presents a brilliant and moving scene, only to follow it up with an unnecessary and droll one. Every time the movie creates some emotional momentum it is stopped in its tracks. The film’s score also works against it; it is seemingly melodramatic in places where little to no music would be most effective, and counter intuitively minimalistic when more assertion and tone is needed. The acting is certainly passable, with the strongest performance undoubtedly coming from Matteo Sciabordi as the Italian boy. Lee deserves credit for employing the foreign actors and the use of subtitles where in so many other war films all sides conveniently speak accented forms of English.This movie had the potential with such a good premise and director to be an Oscar contender. In?stead it is going to be remembered as a movie that merely should have been something excellent. With a little more editing, a touch-up on the script and some more creative restraint from the venerable Mr. Lee, this could have been an astounding cinematic experience – unfortunately it ends up wallowing in mediocrity.