I didn’t think it possible that a new movie by a filmmaker as important as Spike Lee could creep by me, but this one has, until now. A trailer was just put up on Yahoo! Movies for Miracle at St. Anna, his latest film, based on a novel of the same name by James McBride, who also wrote the screenplay. I’m not familiar with the novel, but if someone is, I’d love to hear more details on the story, because the trailer is intriguing.
The majority of the picture seems to focus on a number of soldiers from the black 92nd Infantry Division, the famous “Buffalo Soldiers”, who end up trapped behind enemy lines at the town of Sant Anna di Stazzema during the Second World War. The film, or at least the trailer, uses the framing device of a murder case in 1983 involving Hector Negron, a veteran of the 92nd who shots a man dead in the post office. Some rather dodgy aging effects aside, it makes a curious opening to a war film.
Being set in Sant ‘Anna di Stazzema, the Wikipedia page for the film says that it deals with the massacre carried out there by the SS. However, seeing as that took place two weeks before the 92nd entered combat in Italy, I assume the film will use the massacre as more of a background than depicting it directly, it would be strange if Spike bent history around on this one given the more recent controversies he’s engaged himself in . Much stranger is some kind of subplot in the film involving a valuable (possibly magical?) statue head. Yes, really.
The film seems to be shot in a style we’re all familiar with now, that washed out look used in Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers that’s come to be a short hand for something taking place during the Second World War over the past ten or so years. One shot actually brought to mind The Thin Red Line, but transferred to another theatre of war of course. But it’s not all aping the modern war film trend, Lee’s own style shines through. The murder shot being directly into the camera or the woman sat beside the swastika show a richer, more subjective angle.
It’s hard to get a grip on exactly what kind of film this will be. At one moment it seems like a mystery, later an action orientated war film, another it seems like an historical drama. And are there magical or religious elements surrounding this statue head? I can’t help but get the feeling that the action parts are being punched up more for the trailer, to make it look like something it’s not, but it’s hard to tell with Spike these days. I remember watching the trailer to Inside Man and assuming the picture was not going to be as mainstream as it looked, when in fact the final film actually was, on the whole.
But however accurate the trailer is to the movie, it worked for me. Out of the four or five trailers I watched this evening for movies coming up this winter (including Lexi Alexander’s Punisher film, oh dear), Miracle at St. Anna is the film I want to see the most. Though to be honest, the combination of the Second World War and Spike Lee would be too good to pass up no matter what the ad showed! The film opens in October, this year.