The story begins in the 1980s in New York. An old black man, who works at a postal office, kills a customer. Rewind in 1944 during the Italian campaign of World War II and it's said that this man's name is Hector Negron (Laz Alonso). He serves in the all-black 92nd Infantry Division, which is despised by the white high officers of the American army. During a battle with the German on the Gothic Line, while most of the 92nd followed Cpt. Nooke's (Walton Goggins) order to withdraw, Hector, 2nd Staff Sgt. Aubrey Stamps (Derek Luke), Sgt. Bishop Cummings (Michael Ealy) and Private First Class Samuel Train (Omar Benson Miller) succeed in crossing the line. Besides, Nooke and the other officers don't believe that the four men crossed the river. As they enter a Tuscan village, the four of them stay there since they believe they're surrounded by German troops.
If Saving Private Ryan is the reference for intensity in action scenes, then Miracle at St. Anna lives up to our expectations. In fact, with all the explosions and the bullets that fly around, the war scenes in the film are amongst the most amazing that one will see in his/her life. Besides, at some point, director Spike Lee manages to use the intensity of the war sequence on the river to illustrate the futility of war, the importance of life and above all, the characters' views on the war. Obviously, the movie's part in the 1940s certainly has its flaws, but it does minimally try to get us interested to the leading character's relation with the war. For instance, 2nd Staff Sgt. Stamps believes that the war will give to the blacks equality with the whites once and for all. On the other hand, Sgt. Cummings, who feels more welcomed in Italy than he ever felt right in his town, thinks that the USA will never move forward.
With that said, the problem with Miracle at St. Anna lies in its script. By trying to give to the present tense (the 1980s) as much importance as the past tense (the war), scriptwriter James McBride does no good to the film. In fact, at nearly three hours in terms of length, Miracle at St. Anna unfortunately tries to be too many movies in one, which is a war drama combined with an underdeveloped cop drama (i.e. Hector's murder). This means that Spike Lee should have used the present days only to serve the movie's purpose, which was to give an homage to the black soldiers' service during the Second World War (which, according to the film, tends to be ignored).
Finally, if you're looking for a good war film in this one, you'll just be frustrated by the disjointed elements in the plot. Besides, no matter how amazing they are, the battle sequences can't save the film. In fact, while we can agree that the film is somehow better than Pearl Harbor, Miracle at St. Anna just doesn't have the focus of Indigènes (Days of Glory), a war film that deals with the contribution of North African soldiers in the French army during the Second World War.
Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller and Matteo Sciabordi