Miracle at St. Anna

Director Spike Lee ("Inside Man," "Malcolm X" and "Summer of Sam") has become one of the biggest gorillas in the Hollywood jungle. As a result, he has become too powerful to edit. "Miracle at St. Anna" is an extremely well-made film, but it is too long by half! My companion and I could name entire sections that didn't advance the story, which easily could have been deleted with no negative effect. I think this movie clocks in at two hours, forty minutes. Enough already! ...but who will bell the cat?

Our story begins in contemporary times when a postal clerk, portrayed by Laz Alonzo ("Jarhead" and "Stomp the Yard") suddenly pulls a Lugar from beneath his counter and shoots a customer point blank. A diligent newspaper reporter played by Joseph Gordon-Leavitt ("The Lookout") insinuates himself into the investigation and discovers that the clerk is within a few weeks of retirement, is the recipient of a Purple Heart and has no criminal record of any kind. They soon discover in his apartment a sculpted head which is quickly identified as a priceless artifact from the Ponte Santa Trinita bridge that had been blown up by the retreating German army in 1944.

The ensuing flashback depicts a WWII drama of four Buffalo Soldiers (the military was still segregated) who advance into enemy territory in the latter days of the war. The Germans are already doomed and many of them know it; they are tired, hungry and miserable but they trap our four heroes in a Tuscan village. The Americans have brought along a small Italian boy they encountered along the way, who needs medical attention. They want to leave him with the villagers but he has attached himself to PFC Sam Train, portrayed by Omar Benson Miller ("Shall We Dance?" and "Things We Lost in the Fire") and refuses to be separated from him. A young (Corporal) Laz Alonzo serves as the group's interpreter as well as their radioman.

Derek Luke ("Glory Road," "Antoine Fisher" and "Definitely, Maybe") and Michael Ealy ("Kissing Jessica Stein" and "Barbershop") comprise the rest of our quartet. Suffice it to say that this is a war movie with all that implies (fire fights, severed limbs, corpses, cowardice and courage). Please keep in mind that, no matter how competent he is as a filmmaker, Spike Lee could use a trusted friend who can tell him when enough is enough.