A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, from start to finish, this is a violent war movie and not meant for kids. Though the filmmakers try to humanize the characters (including portraying a sympathetic Nazi), acts of cruelty, barbaric murder, wounding, and killing are graphically depicted throughout the film. Images include gunshots to the head, severed limbs, the massacre of innocent victims (including many children and babies), and blood gushing from heads and bodies and pooling around lifeless soldiers in the water. A young child is in danger throughout the film. Vicious racism is a continuing theme, and language is frequently crass and explicit (including many uses of both "f--k" and the "N" word). Two scenes show a bare-breasted woman; another includes passionate sexual foreplay.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
After a major battle in the hills of Italy in the waning days of World War II, four surviving African-American soldiers from the segregated 92nd Infantry Division are caught behind enemy lines. Desperately trying to get back to their company, the men encounter a terrified child and lead him to the safety of a small Tuscan village. Meanwhile, Nazi troops in the vicinity are searching for the local Italian partisan (resistance) leader known as "The Great Butterfly." Ultimately, the four Americans, who are the last hope of the villagers and the advancing American forces, come face-to-face with the enemy -- and with the traitor who has betrayed the partisans.
Is it any good?
The story and the performances are heartfelt and powerful in this brutal war film. Talented, versatile director Spike Lee, working from a script by James McBride (who wrote the novel the movie is based on), attempts the almost impossible. MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA is part devastating World War II movie, part political film exposing the notorious racism of much of white America during that time, and part fairy tale in which a child becomes one with his rescuers as his spirit transcends the evil around him.
It's an ambitious goal, and not entirely successful. The movie changes tone and direction too many times, and what suffers most is characterization: The men become archetypes instead of singular individuals. Still, the production is magnificent, and if viewers allow themselves to be transported to that monumental period in America's history, it will be an enlightening and moving experience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what this movie is saying about American history. What was the country fighting for in World War II? Why were the military troops segregated during that war -- and throughout U.S. history? How has America's racial conscience changed since then? Also, what does Captain Nokes represent? Did he learn anything over the course of the film? How did you feel about him?
- In theaters: September 25, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: February 10, 2009
- Cast: D.B. Sweeney, John Turturro, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
- Director: Spike Lee
- Studio: Touchstone Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 160 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong war violence, language and some sexual content/nudity.
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