Spike Lee’s Miracle at St.Anna (2008) The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers and the Massacre at St. Anna

I would say that Miracle at St.Anna is one of the best American war movies and the best American WWII movie of the last ten years. I was surprised to see how good it is, as critics and public have been equally harsh. I assume they are biased because of its director. The end is corny but overall it is absolutely excellent and tells a lesser known story in a very engaging way.

The movie starts somewhat surprisingly in 1982 New York. A modest post-office worker kills a man who buys stamps from him. He shoots him with a German Luger. The incident attracts a lot of attention, even more so when they discover the head of an Italian Renaissance statue in his apartment.

Next we are in Italy, in 1944. The 92nd company, the so-called Buffalo soldiers, a company consisting almost only of African-American soldiers gets under heavy German fire. A small group is separated from the rest and makes their way to a little mountain village that is surrounded by Germans.

One of the soldiers, a huge man, saves a little boy who seems to be ill and slightly crazy. He takes the disturbed little kid with him, all together they find refuge in the house of some Italians, one of them a Fascist. The Germans aren’t really looking for the Buffalo soldiers, they are hunting Italian partisans. And the partisans are hunting them. The Italians know, and so it seems does the little boy, that there is a traitor among them.

While they stay at the village, some of the soldiers realize that the Italians treat them much better than the white people back home. And they also treat them better than some of the white American civilians living in Italy. There is a particularly infuriating scene with an American bar owner who doesn’t want to serve black people. They fight for their country but their country doesn’t appreciate them.

The core scene of the movie is the massacre at St. Anna, a true story, in which hundreds of Italian civilians got killed by the Nazis because the Partisans have killed some of the Germans. The Germans have been told by their command that they have to shoot 10 Italians for one dead German.

Miracle at St. Anna is very rich. It combines a multitude of elements and many stories that circle around different relationships but still feels like a whole. It’s sad, it’s moving and it is very suspenseful as it also works like a thriller. We really want to know why the guy killed the other one. There aren’t many good WWII movies showing the African-American participation and there aren’t many good ones on Italy during WWII. This covers both. And there is also some fighting, for those who want this from their war movies.

Miracle at St. Anna is also part of the Children in War Movies List and African-American Soldiers in war movies.

For those of you who like to watch TV series, the actor who played Shane in The Shield and the guy called “Omar” in The Wire are in this movie.

This is a highly watchable and very original movie that can be named together with other great WWII movies like Saving Private Ryan or The Thin Red Line. 5/5


17 thoughts on “Spike Lee’s Miracle at St.Anna (2008) The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers and the Massacre at St. Anna

  1. […] Spike Lee’s Miracle at St.Anna (2008) « All About War Movies said, […]

  2. Guy Savage says:

    I really like Spike lee films so I’m not sure how I missed this. Makes me think of Katyn.

    • He was drowned in bad reviews and a fair share of the usual abuse. It’s a fine movie and worth watching. I’m not always sure when I watch a modern American war movie that the director had something new or different to say. Spike Lee did. Katyn is excellent too but very different.

  3. My husband and I watched this last weekend and thought it was really good. The very end was a bit cheesy, but I was willing to forgive it because the rest of the movie was good. The massacre scene brought tears to my eyes.

    • I thought the same, the end was really not too good but I could forgive it as well as the rest is outstanding. the massacre is horrible, and the one little girl that survived… Heartbreaking, really.

  4. warmoviebuff says:

    Thanks for the review. I will now watch it. I remember looking forward to it… then the reviews came out. They were brutal so I lost interest.

    • I almost didn’t watch it because of some bad reviews but they were completely wrong. they made it sound chaotic and weird which isn’t the case. Funny also that as soon as someone shows a movie from an African-American point of view he is called a racist.

  5. warmoviebuff says:

    Ironically, Miracle came out after Lee had criticized Clint Eastwood’s lack of African-Americans in Flags of Our Fathers. Eastwood was pretty dismissive of the charge, but it created a minor furor. It could be that some critics sided with Eastwood consciously or subconsciously by treating Lee’s movie harshly. That would be the racist aspect of it. “You want to mess with our legendary white director, see what you get”.

    However, it has been my experience that critics are usually liberals which means they would be receptive to a movie about minority soldiers. Lee may have cancelled this advantage by what some viewed as a publicity stunt.

    BTW Eastwood had the stronger position on the Flags issue.

    • We had this discussion before and I think Eastwood was dead wrong. And I do believe the critics did side with Eastwood or at least against Spike Lee. He’s been called a racist numerous times. I think he is just someone who makes people feel uncomfortable. I like many of his movies and this one is no exception. The best I can say is : watch it and do decide for yourself.

  6. Zead says:

    Horrible, horrible movie. Really? Lee has to pull a “Roots” homage with the junior officer spitting into the canteen of a white superior officer? Subtle. Oh, yeah… and the ice slop scene….. Armed black soldiers holding up an entire white storefront and driving away into the sunset? The entire African American company-brigade or what ever the order of battle was would have been subjected to unheard of military judicial action. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the “Good negro” losing out on hitting that white girl poon. The ig’nant Negro hit it and hit it good. Lee went and pooped on the brave Black soldiers by ……. You know what, I’m done. These great American soldiers should have been represented better. Their lineage from the Bufffalo Soldiers who served this country with great distinction and got little or nothing in return….. I am so pissed after seeing this movie, I just want to spit.

    • Your comment certainly shows that one can see movies in different ways. I didn’t think it was offensive at any time. I know the movie got bad reviews but they were for totally other reasons than the ones you just mention. I had the feeling that most of it could have happened just the way he depicted it. It’s hard for me to imagine that Spike Lee of all people would make a movie debasing African-American soldiers. Did you see the Tuskeegee Airmen? Did you like it?

  7. Zead says:

    Great movie. It was far better than this minstrel show of a flick. I just want to thank you for putting up this site. I love the database of movies available. I wish I could be more eloquent in my review of St. Anna I just find it so poor on so many levels.

    • I think I know what you mean, especially after what you say about Tuskegee Airmen. They can’t be compared, I agree. What they did was outstanding and it was portayed like that. I was very moved. I cannot say I was equally moved by Miracle at St.Anna still I thought it was good and showed that they fought for a country that wouldn’t thank them for what they did. I’m glad you like my site, thanks.

  8. Zead says:

    You know, I just have to say that “Miracle” was no “Glory”. The movie simply lacked the gravitas. I just came away feeling that all of the characters were caricatures.

    • I agree. Glory is one of my top 10. It’s one of the best there is. Denzel Washington is a fantastic acotr. I also like A Soldier’s Story. I think you are not wrong about the caricature. There is a bit of an Inglourious Basterds thing going on here as well. Not that much though. I wonder if there are survivors of the original Buffalo Soldiers and what they thought of the movie.

  9. Jan Jørgensen says:

    Seldom a film with more deep meanings in the line of the story. And the film is art.

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