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.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but my first impression would be that your review is a tad harsh. But sometimes you remember a movie too fondly and on second viewing see its flaws. I will try to get to it soon. Hopefully before X-Mas, naturally. I just watched Castle Keep and can assure you they do not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence. And yet, Castle Keep made the 100 Greatest and MC did not. Go figure. Did the religious elements disturb you? Just wondering.
Yes, the religious under- and overtones were bothering me a great deal. I had a paragraph on it but deleted it. But I did not have the type of problem you might think. I think it is not okay to recreate a scene in which a soldier seems to be washed like Jesus after having been taken off the cross… A tad blasphemous for my taste. And there were many other allusions, they bothered me for various reasons. Blood symbolism…
I actually felt the washing scene was powerful, but I can understand your view. I have a feeling the movie is not well known and was not pushed by critics because of its overt religiousness. I guess I am partially a believer in the secular humanist domination of the movie industry theory. I am not a fundamentalist, but I do not mind seeing a little balance. Considering all the movies that avoid any reference whatsoever to religious themes, I can accept the rare movie that is upfront about it. Soldiers in combat are some of the most religious people on Earth and yet you seldom see any reference to that.
I wanted to do a post on all the prayers that are used in war movies. Lost track by know. I hated Mel Gibbson praying in We Were Soldiers. He is phony. I remember Robert Redford in A Bridge Too Far…
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One of the goals of We Were Soldiers was obviously to be in your face with Gibson’s religion. (Take that, atheistic Hollywood!) There is none of that in the book, but then I do not think the book covered the wives which was a nice touch by the movie. It angers me that because he is a superstar, Gibson can apparently force his religious views and his desire to torture himself into his movies. He is truly a warped individual.
Redford’s character in ABTF is exactly what I am talking about when I say praying is common among soldiers in combat and yet you seldom see it in movies. (“There are no atheists in fox holes”). That was one of the best scenes in an excellent movie. It rang true whether you think it was a waste of breath or not.
I think we see it fairly often, they all pray under fire, especially shortly before disembarking boats, hardly ever in planes…
This movie takes place during, not after the Battle of the Bulge.
You are right, of course, I muddled it up with Bastogne and even that isn’t exactly finished around Christmas but after.
[…] they are not Christian. Platoon got away with it but let’s face it, Platoon is one of a kind. A Midnight Clear, that is very similar to Saints and Soldiers, overdid it and this movie overdid it […]