Miracle at St. Anna

Miracle at St. Anna

Directed By: Spike Lee


Early on in this travesty of a film, an elderly African American is watching a John Wayne WWII flick. Spittling at the screen, he intones “we were there, TOO, pilgrim…”This, then, is Spike’s answer to all those films that “forgot” to include Blacks in their retelling of war tales. Much was made of Spike’s verbal attack on Eastwood for ignoring African American involvement in his Iwo Jima/Flags of our Fathers projects. All this pre-release drama and heavy handed introductions of character would, of course, be completely forgiven if we were presented with a nuanced, intelligent, well drawn tale of heroism.

Instead, we get what can be simply described as the worst war film I’ve seen since the prurient Passchendaele. Now, given that that was two days ago takes nothing from that sting – this is a truly awful, horrendous film, best avoided if not downright ignored.

Forgetting the dull plot, ridiculous situations and boring-as-hell “McGuffin” (in the form of a statue head), the most abhorrent thing about this film is that it is almost virulently racist. You’ve got token characterizations throughout: forgiving the “cracker”, southern white boy who callously massacres his own men because he doesn’t believe they’ve succeeded in the first phase of their mission, the characterizations of the black characters are the stuff of a Bamboozled-like Vaudeville shtick. There’s the over sexed light skinned black, the uncertain dark skinned black who fawns at the site of the most gratuitous display of white boobs since Dolomite. There’s also the big, hulking giant, clinically retarded it seems but strong as an ox and with a heart of gold, able to woo even the most precocious of children with his feats of power.

Then there’s the language – forgetting the off-putting use of the term “nigger” as a form of affectionate banter, this term is offensive in this context on aesthetic grounds, if only because of its historical inaccuracy for the period. I’m not sure if Spike was trying in some way to contemporize the slang (in the same way that Milch uses “cunt” in Deadwood in place of “damn”, as the force of the former term has diminished while the latter continues to be, well, provocative. Regardless, the writer/director shamefully parades the n-word, making each soldier little more than characterizations of themselves, silly pawns from just another rap video.

This is such a total failure, such a total disappointment, that the trite and convenient ending is saved from being risible by being merely pathetic and patently ridiculous.

The tale of African American involvement in this conflict may certainly deserve more attention than it gets, but, if anything, this film serves to do nothing less than piss on the memories of those who actually served, making Black soldiers seem like bumbling idiots incapable of keeping their dicks in their pants, while engaging in militarily ridiculous activities and shlepping a superstitious avatar in the form of a plaster, not-coincidentally white head. Horrendous, simply horrendous.

Grade: FAIL


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