Review Covers Blu-Ray & DVD Version
Cover Art and Menus: 8/10
I can’t help it, I like this cover. It’s haunting and compelling, and not over designed. It reminds me of older war movies, the heart of which were the ensemble cast, a band of soldiers in arms. The menu is functional, which is fine for me. I’ve come to accept that menus are a disposable element, no more need to be a stickler for finding some personality or umph. If I can find the features and other areas of the disc, I’m happy.
- Deeds Not Words (Blu-Ray only) – Veterans of WWII discuss the real life prejudice they encountered when they were in the service in the 30’s and 40’s. I don’t want to sound condescending or like some lofty enlightened bullshiter, but hearing these men talk about the reality of being African American in a war defending a country that was still segregating them based on their race….well, it’s thought provoking at the very very least.
- The Buffalo Soldier Experience (Blu-Ray only) – This is made up of footage from WWII, African American soldiers, battles, and interviews with honored Veterans talking about those years of service and racism in the ranks. It also includes interviews with a few Italian women who had fond memories of the soldiers who happened along to feed and protect their village.
- Deleted Scenes (Blu-Ray only) –Most of these are the original more extended versions of scenes from the movie. There are a couple that we haven’t seen, and one in particular that would have been excellent in the final cut of the movie. Mr. Lee didn’t bother to ask my opinion before trimming these scenes, lesson learned.
The Movie: 9/10
A movie that changes my perception of something in real life doesn’t come along very often. Miracle at St. Anna came along. I’m not a history buff nor am I aware of what being judged by my race is like, and I never will. The thing is, this movie shines a light on both of these things for me. Even if it’s in the Spike Lee universe and a film version of reality, it’s all based in some truth. The truth is that in WWII men fought for our country who were beaten down, segregated, treated like shit by almost everyone around them. Even with that, they joined the armed forces, rose in the ranks, fought for the same freedoms and principles that everyone else was fighting for, but do we honor them in our culture?
This isn’t a history or racial equality lesson, I’m just saying, this movie made me think. I can admit that I have never really considered the contributions of African American soldiers, or any other beyond the images and stories I have heard that are purely from a Caucasian perspective. Not so much to say I don’t know that our wars have always been fought by folks of all description, but to think about the racism that was always bearing down on them, add that to being in a war…come on, to say it’s incredible is an understatement.
St. Anna is beautifully directed, acted, (for the most part, keep an open mind through the first 10 minutes) and looks amazing. I don’t think I have time to go into how much I enjoyed each and every member of the cast once we get to WWII. The pace is delicate mixed with in-your-face, balanced just right. I have to be careful you see, if I start talking about how much I was loving this movie all the way through, you and I will be here all day.
I’ll just go on to point out a few of the things I’m still replaying in my mind. First there is an amazing young Italian boy who is the cement of the story most of the way through. Did I mention it takes place in Italy 1944 when a group of American soldiers were held up in an Italian village with refugees while the Germans were making their final desperate push to take over the world? Ok, that’s cleared up.
Back to the Italian boy. He actually took my breath away a few times and that’s so rare I’m not sure I even know the last time it happened while watching a movie. (Ok, on my anniversary, February 2, we watched Groundhog Day and when Bill Murray wakes up and it’s the next day..I did gasp a bit, for the 100th time:)) Along with the young boy the ensemble cast of soldiers did everything from make me proud to break my heart, and they did it well.
The next thing about the movie that stands out for me would be the sets, locations, costumes, it’s all detailed and brings me right into the 40’s. It does have the occasion to be a more typical movie rendetion of the era, but for the most part I was there, not distracted by cheap parlor tricks that scream NOW and not the period we are supposed to be watching.
The final thing I’ll say about Miracle at St. Anna is that even with the horrific violence it depicts, there is a restraint, often a fine line between implied and bold representations of the horrors of war. I never felt hammered at or like it was watered down so much it wasn’t real enough to feel in my gut.
I don’t think I can say enough good things, it could get boring after a while so I’ll stop. There is a negative, and I don’t mean to pick on anyone, but in the first few minutes of the movie we meet a reporter on the trail of a story. He’s played by a quality young actor, however, this time he missed the mark for me. I’m not sure why, can’t put my finger on it, but he stood out enough that it did get me started in the wrong direction. That is until we are transported back to the war and the quality flowed like water out of my husband’s filtered jug in the refrigerator (that’s a lot).
Audio & Video: 9/10
I have not mentioned this before in one of my little audio & Video write ups, but Miracle at St. Anna made me realize that the “Layer Change” is gone forever with Blu-Ray disc. If you have not been paying attention, DVD’s of old were usually dual layer discs. That means the laser has to physically refocus when it gets to the end of one layer to see the next. This results in a small pause or hitch in the video. Some DVD’s did a good job of hiding this by putting the switch in a part of the movie where the scene changes but some discs actually change layers in the middle of dialog which I always hate. Blu-Ray on the other hand is also dual layered but due to the buffer in your player you will never see the layer change. It might seem like a small thing but it’s always been something that takes me out of the experience for a brief time and now it’s long gone.
Miracle At St. Anna is quite a long movie (almost 3 hours) but even so it manages to look amazing from start to finish on Blu-Ray and DVD. The Blu-ray version looks sublime and really captures the gritty, grainy, and cold look of the second word war in the Italian hills. Most of the movie takes place in broad daylight which adds to the clean crisp look. Even the darker scenes looked natural and were full of shadow detail. The movie is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio on a 50GB disc.
Audio is exceptional and the Uncompressed DTS-HD MA track really delivers. The opening scenes, which take place at the river, sound amazing. When they pull out the heavy artillery you can hear shells hitting the floor behind you with such force it makes you flinch. The movie, while having action, is mainly a dialog piece and interestingly enough the dialog here sounds super natural as though the people are in the room with you. The score should also be mentioned as it’s super ominous and haunting but never overpowering. As you heard in the Podcast, I loved this movie. The presentation on Blu-Ray disc does it proud.
I’m a fan of this movie and the extras really do make it an experience worth having in life. That being said, it’s like every other Blu-Ray with a price tag too high for me to recommend, I say rent it. If you will watch it over and over, show it to friends and family (and it’s totally that kind of movie) by all means it’s worth the cash.
Overall Score 9/10