Ardennes Forest, December 1944, just after the Battle of the Bulge. A small intelligence unit is sent to an abandoned estate in the forest to do some reconnaissance. The men all have an IQ above 150 and have been chose especially for this unit. While staying at the house they encounter a small group of German soldiers who want to surrender. They have just returned from the Eastern front, happy to have survived and war weary. They don’t see any sense in fighting anymore. During an evening of truce the two parties exchange Christmas gifts and sing their respective Christmas songs. The time before the two parties meet is the best part in the movie. It is quite spooky. The men, surrounded by the ghostly winter forest, start to doubt at some point that there really is someone, they only hear noises and voices that shout “Good night” in German.
The day after the Christmas celebration they are going to fake a skirmish in which the US soldiers will pretend to take the Germans prisoners. It doesn’t quite turn out the way they planned it.
A Midnight Clear is based on a novel by William Wharton (the same author who wrote Birdy). The most striking feature of the movie are powerful images. There is an instance where the group comes upon two frozen soldiers, a German and an American one, who seem to be dancing together. The icy cold winter forest is beautifully filmed. Another really great aspect is a flashback element where we see the young American soldiers getting ready for going to war and spending a night on the town looking for an occasion to lose their virginity.
I have read a lot of positive reviews about this movie. Funny enough, a person on amazon, who gave it high praise, compared it to Castle Keep and called it surreal. I didn’t think it was surreal, I thought it was at moments a bit forced. This was mostly due to the character called “Mother” who annoyed me totally. Sure, he suffered of post-traumatic stress, still.
Since I have been complaining about the use of languages in Silent Night, I might add here that this is flawless in this movie. The German soldiers are played by German actors.
Another interesting element is that we see a few fine actors at the beginning of their career: Ethan Hawke, Kevin Dillon and Gary Sinise.
How would I rate it? All in all I can’t give it more than 3/5. I have a feeling, comparing my impressions with all the positive reviews, that I didn’t get this movie. Or is it too similar to Silent Night?
This is the only trailer I could find. Whoever did it found it appropriate to use Albinoni’s Adagio which we never hear in the movie. It would have been fitting though.