Spike Lee‘s ambitious but flawed war movie Miracle at St Anna seeks to put right a longstanding injustice – Hollywood’s neglect of the African-American contribution to World War Two. As an ageing black veteran says while watching John Wayne’s D-Day epic The Longest Day on TV at the beginning of the film, “We fought that war, too.” This scene is set in 1983 New York, but the bulk of what follows takes place in Tuscany in 1944 and follows the experiences of four members of the all-black 92nd Infantry Division, the US army’s “Buffalo Soldiers”.
Stranded behind enemy lines after a racist white officer botches an attack, the quartet – thoughtful Stamps (Derek Luke), cynical Cummings (Michael Ealy), gentle giant Train (Omar Benson Miller) and devout Puerto Rican corporal Negron – find refuge with a hilltop community, accompanied by the small Italian boy whose life Train has saved. They strike up friendships with the villagers and the local partisans, but a German counterattack is imminent and there is a traitor in their midst.
Adapted from a novel by James McBride, Miracle at St Anna makes a bid for epic status, but Lee throws in more elements – including murder mystery and supernatural fantasy – than the narrative can stand. The two big battle scenes are impressively staged, but the action in between sprawls and stumbles.
Released on DVD & Blu-ray by Revolver Entertainment on 27th June.