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Buena Vista Home Video presents
Miracle at St. Anna (2008)

“Pilgrim, we fought for this country, too.”
- Corporal Hector Negron (Laz Alonso)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: February 23, 2009

Stars: Derek Luke, Michael Ealy
Other Stars: Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller, Pierfrancesco Favino, Valentina Cervi
Director: Spike Lee

MPAA Rating: R for (strong war violence, language and some sexual content/nudity)
Run Time: 02h:40m:22s
Release Date: February 10, 2009
UPC: 786936775372
Genre: war

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- D+B+A- D-

DVD Review

Spike Lee is one of the best American filmmakers of our time. From the moment he burst onto the scene with 1986’s She’s Gotta Have It, Lee has been a pioneer in not only ethnic-centric filmmaking, but in the drama genre as a whole. He is responsible for directing some of the best films of the last 20 years, from Do the Right Thing to Malcolm X, with the underrated Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, and Summer of Sam also on his more than impressive resume. In 2002, Lee made what is arguably his masterpiece, the Edward Norton fronted 25th Hour. While Lee has always made studio pictures, he seemed to really “go Hollywood” not long after that, with the overrated 2006 heist film Inside Man and the World War II epic Miracle at St. Anna. The latter film was a box office and critical flop, but the Spike Lee faithful can now check it out via Buena Vista’s new bare bones DVD release.

It’s 1983, in Harlem, New York, and postal clerk Hector Negron (Laz Alonso) spends much of his elderly life staring at his television, alone. One day, while working, a customer comes to his window to buy stamps. Seeming to instantly recognize this man, Hector pulls out a German Lugar and shoots him dead. After being arrested for murder, Negron is interviewed by reporter Tim Boyle (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), which brings his World War II experiences flooding back to his memory. He was Corporal Negron then, and, during the war, he experienced things that he would wish upon no human being. After we relive the horrible events in his head, the reason Hector murdered this main becomes painfully obvious.

The biggest crime surrounding this huge disappointment is Spike Lee’s awesome track record, as we know just how great a filmmaker he truly is. Whenever I hear of an upcoming Lee film, I’m rife with anticipation, counting down the days until its release. After Inside Man and Miracle at St. Anna, I will be approaching his films with trepidation. St. Anna is one of the most difficult “epic” films to sit through in quite some time. It’s a muddled mess, full of poorly-shot war-related battle sequences, uninteresting subplots, and a meandering, underwritten story that plods along aimlessly. The actors are quite possibly the worst group Lee has ever had to work with. This is one of the rare instances where Lee hasn’t had a Denzel Washington or another established actor anchoring his film, and the amateurish acting that dominates here is far too distracting to overcome.

Usually, the score in a Spike Lee Joint is one of its best aspects, but here, it’s often more of a distraction than anything. The score doesn’t dominate the film, but when it is heard, it’s in strange montages showing the soldiers standing out in the middle of a field for some odd reason. Then, when we cut to a scene dominated by Nazis, the music campily switches from the upbeat tunes for the soldier sequences, to stern, dark tones that are practically saying, “look, the bad guys are on the screen now!” I guess if a movie is going to be a train wreck, it might as well sound like one too.

I don’t think it’s asking too much to want my Spike Lee World War II-themed movies to be almost entirely serious affairs. For the first hour or so, Spike’s all serious business, showing us a murder, followed by a gruesomely bloody battle scene with limbs being blown off. Then, basically right when we hit the 1-hour mark, things get a bit silly. Sure, the “Train” character is a big, dumb, loveable dufus, but do we really need scenes in a supposedly serious drama that feature music (again with the horrible score!) the likes of which is heard in goofy slapstick comedies? While that’s a rhetorical question, it’s one of many that I’m hoping Spike Lee asks himself when he’s shooting Inside Man 2. Wait, Inside Man 2 is seriously his next movie?! Oh, boy…

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation looks quite good, with detailed images during most sequences, and inherent grain where Lee changes up his shooting style. Colors are bright and vivid, with abundant use of various military greens and accurate fleshtones throughout.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Spanish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is an extremely active mix, with dynamic use of the surrounds throughout. The battle sequences come to life thanks to deep, aggressive bass and gunshots that we hear fly across the soundfield. Dialogue is crisp and easy to understand throughout.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Confessions of a Shopaholic, Blindness, Doubt, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Happy-Go-Lucky
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Aside from previews for other releases, there aren’t any extras on this single disc release.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Miracle at St. Anna is the second straight disappointment from the great Spike Lee. It really doesn’t work on any level, unless you’re looking for a couple of graphically-depicted massacres, and it appears that Buena Vista doesn’t think much of the film either, as they bring it to DVD without a single extra feature.


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