Omar Benson Miller (left) and Matteo Sciabordi hope for a Miracle.
MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA (Spike Lee). 166 minutes. Opens Friday (September 26). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
Miracle At St. Anna is a long-ass movie.
The story, based on the novel by James McBride, is an important one, about the all-African American 92nd Division of the U.S. Army in World War II. Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso and Omar Benson Miller play "Buffalo Soldiers" caught in an Italian village, seething with frustration at their incompetent white commander. Miller particularly stands out: his character, Private Train, could be a horrible stereotype, but he infuses this "country-wise" soldier with genuine love and faith.
Spike Lee never seems to get sufficient credit for his visual style; his politics are always a better story than his talent. With this picture he adds his name to the list of directors who can shoot the hell out of a battle sequence.
But the film's got problems. It contains at least one too many flashbacks, and the modern-day scenes that bookend it are unnecessary and confusing. Too much time is spent on the Italian resistance movement, causing the film to drag. And some sequences are spliced together so oddly that I wondered at times if I was watching a rough cut.
Lee spoke at TIFF about the difficulty of getting funding for this film and how vital it is to get butts in seats. Unfortunately, too many of those butts might get numb watching his film.Deirdre Swain