Off Topic: Spike Lee on the war film

If Spike Lee wants to make a movie set during World War II, why not?

I watched and reviewed Miracle at St. Anna (200eight) for Filmthreat. Here’s an excerpt:

When viewing the work of an auteur filmmaker, there’s an automatic, perhaps unconscious, compulsion to sift through the conversations, sights, and sounds of the film for elements that conform to or contradict the qualities associated with the filmmaker. When Spike Lee became a household name in the 1990s with “Do The Right Thing“, “Jungle Fever,” and “Get On the Bus;” and then continued into the 21st century with “The 25th Hour” and “When The Levees Broke,” his cinema was considered one of social commentary manifested through cynical and satirical characters.

“Miracle at St. Anna” initially poses a challenge for identifying signature traits of his style not only because it’s a war film (the genre formula is likely to steer plot development), but also because it is based on a book. If the humorous dialogue cannot be solely credited to Lee due to the screenplay and the actors’ performances, Lee nonetheless leaves his creative imprints throughout the film. His social commentary comes across via the juxtaposition of images and the use of extreme close-ups. For example, a short clip from the World War II film “The Longest Day” (1962), starring John Wayne, opens the film. As Hector Negron watches these images on his TV, he laments under his breath that he “fought for this country too.” Immediately, the issue of visibility and representation is introduced: “Miracle at St. Anna” will be a story about voices that need to be heard and experiences that need to be known.

Other themes, such as the complexities of warfare and of humanity, are addressed briefly but poignantly in the scenes that reveal the protagonists’ conflict of interests and scenes that feature Captain Eichholz (Christian Berkel), a Nazi who doesn’t buy into the ideology of the Führer but still has a job to do. Eichholz is not a sympathetic character; instead, he is a reminder that allegiances and betrayals in times of war are much grayer than they are black-and-white.

Click here to read the entire review.


When I first saw previews for the film, I knew I was going to watch it. I like Derek Luke as an actor and was curious to see where the Spike Lee-ness would be in the film. After looking up more information on the film and realizing that James McBride wrote the source material and the adapted screenplay, I volunteered to review it. I read his book The Color of Water in my AP Psych class when I was a senior in high school.

I picked up the Miracle at St. Anna book after I watched the movie.

The book includes a disclaimer after the dedication page informing the reader that “this book is a work of fiction inspired by real events and real people. It draws upon the individual and collective experiences of black soldiers who served in the Serchio Valley and Aquane Alps of Italy during World War II.” McBride took “certain liberties with names, places, and geography, but what follows is real. It happens a thousand times in a thousand places to a thousand people. Yet we still manage to love one another, despite our best efforts to the contrary.”

The Movie Tie-In version (cover same as the poster).

The Non Movie Tie-In version.

Read more about the production of the film in this LA Times piece here.

Click here for more pictures.

Click here for an interview with the four main actors.

Click here more information on The Longest Day (1962).

A screencap from production notes.

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