Miracle at St. Anna

Rated 2.0

James McBride adapts his own novel for director Spike Lee as a higher-minded version of Lee’s rebuke to Clint Eastwood for lacking black faces in Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima. True, given the chance, Lee could find a way to rebuke the lack of black faces in Brideshead Revisited. Here he focuses on four members (Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller) of the segregated 92nd Infantry Division, also known as the Buffalo Soldiers, who get left behind by their unit and pinned down under enemy fire while rescuing an Italian village boy in Tuscany during World War II. The movie sort of abandons them, too, obscuring the actors’ fine talents with tedious stridency and the clutter of extraneous narrative framework. It’s not that Lee’s having an axe to grind is automatically a problem; just look at his magnificent Malcolm X. It’s that he’s so stodgily parroting the cinematic syntax of the very war movies he’s taken up arms against (not just Eastwood’s, but Spielberg’s, too). The result here is too, well, black and white.