"Miracle at St. Anna" has a lot to say. In fact, if anything, the film probably has too much to say.
This war drama is yet another attempt by Spike Lee to make a grand cinematic statement it's his answer to what he perceived as racial ignorance in Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers."
Unfortunately, it's a jumble of disparate story elements that don't fit together. As a result, this is not his strongest work, and judging by this, it shows that war movies are not really his milieu.
"Miracle" is based on the book of the same name by James McBride, who is also credited with the screenplay. Wraparound period sequences introduce us to murder-mystery involving Hector Negron (Laz Alonso), a World War II veteran.
Flash back to the war, in which Negron was part of a mostly black, U.S. Army squadron that was stationed in Italy toward the end of the European conflict.
Negron and his fellow soldiers Staff Sgt. Aubrey Stamps (Derek Luke), Sgt. Bishop Cummings (Michael Ealy) and the sweet-natured but slow Pfc. Sam Train (Omar Benson Miller) get stranded behind enemy lines.
To further complicate matters, the hulking Train has just rescued a young Italian boy (Matteo Sciabordi). So now they have to take care of him while trying to decide which of the Italian villagers they've met are friendly and which of them might be Nazi collaborators.
Lee and McBride do try to stitch these oddly mismatched bits into a tapestry. However, when you're delving into ghostly fantasy and art-treasure intrigue, as well as divisive American history, that's nearly impossible.
The cast comes off all right, but there are some poorly staged battle scenes. (A jeep explosion sequence is unconvincing and is almost laughably bad.)
"Miracle at St. Anna" is rated R for strong scenes of war violence (shootings, explosive mayhem), some fairly graphic gore and blood, strong sexual language (profanity, vulgar slang and other suggestive talk), racial slurs and other derogatory language, brief female nudity, brief drug content and references (painkillers and antibiotics), and a brief sex scene (mostly implied). Running time: 155 minutes.