The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Touchstone/Disney - 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 160 minutes
Genre: War drama
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English SDH, French, and Spanish
Starring: Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller, Pierfrancesco Favino, Valentina Cervi
Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: James McBride
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: February 10, 2009
"World War II has its heroes and its miracles"
From Touchstone Pictures and A Spike Lee Joint comes the powerful and uplifting World War II epic Miracle At St. Anna, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee. Stationed in Tuscany, Italy, four members of the U.S. Army's all-black 92nd Infantry Division, the Buffalo Soldiers, are trapped behind enemy lines after one of them risks his life to save a traumatized Italian boy. Separated from their unit, they find themselves in a remote Tuscan village where they experience the tragedy and the triumph of war. Based on the highly praised novel by James McBride, and filled with exceptional battle scenes and action, it's a gripping and inspiring story drawn from a real incident that will touch the goodness within us all and never let go.
Miracle at St. Anna comes from the true story of four African American soldiers stationed in German occupied Italy during World War II. Separated from their unit and trapped behind Nazi lines, ranking officer Aubrey Stamps ( Luke), hot-headed Bishop Cummings (Michael Ealy), radioman Hector Negron (Laz Alonso) and gentle giant Sam Train (Omar Benson Miller) survive a shocking massacre, rescuing a young Italian boy in the process. The five make their way to the nearest village, where they join forces with the local partisans, risking their lives and gathering intelligence for a nation that considers them second-class citizens. An inspirational look at the heroic exploits of the all-black 92nd Buffalo Soldier Division of the U.S. Army.
The story is told in three stages and opens in 1983 with Hector working at the Post Office. It kicks off when a patron comes to his window and asks him for a 20 cent stamp.
When things wrapped up I felt as though I should have had more of an emotional connection to the story but I didn't. The ending was okay but like other aspects of the movie there were portions of it that didn't add up. The main cast members did a find job, as did those such as Kerry Washington, John Turturro, John Leguizamo, DB Sweeney, and Josep Gordon-Levitt who had cameos. I appreciated the homage to the Buffalo Soldiers and the brief glimpse of what things were like for them. I looked forward to finding out what the answer was to the sleeping man. When it was revealed it just wasn't that fulfilling. Unfortunately the film was simply too long at over two and a half hours and the potential inherent in the story felt watered down.
The rating is for strong war violence, language, and brief sexual content/nudity.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Miracle at St. Anna comes to Blu-ray from Touchstone/Disney featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 25 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.3 mbps.
This video presentation has two distinctive looks and offers good not great overall image quality. The WWII portions which make up the majority of the movie use grain and muted colors to give it a gritty texture and rougher visual style that has a dated aesthetic. Grain is presented with a prominent consistency that becomes heavier during darker segments. Fleshtones are tonally neutral among the Caucasian actors and less delineated among the black actors. This is directly related to the filtering applied and it coincides with the look of the rest of the video. The sepia and earth tones used in the period clothing and scenery are rendered with good tonal balance and depth. Resolution fluctuates and is scene dependent. There are many instances where detail is clearly resolvable with discerning visual perspective. On the other hand there are equally as many instances where perspective and sharpness is less tangible and defining. This appears to be intentional and is not attributable to the encoding. Blacks are appreciably dynamic with viable depth and contrast is punchy without negatively affecting detail perception. The segments that take place in 1983 offer crisp high definition detail with vivid colors and lively flesh tones. The video has a bright, two dimensional, and film like quality that looks great and decidedly different from the WWII segments.
*CIH users will be pleased to hear that the subtitles are contained within the picture area.*
Disney has consistently supported lossless audio encodings on their Blu-ray disc releases. Lately they have begun offering DTS-HD Master Audio sound which some feel offers an improvement over uncompressed PCM or Dolby TrueHD lossless soundtracks. Whether that is true or not is a topic that always seems up for debate. Regardless I am glad to see it offered as an option on Blu-ray Disc titles. This audio presentation featured extended dynamics built around a nicely balanced surround mix that sounded great. This isn't what I consider to be an aggressive soundtrack. Dialogue and music play more of a role than then the short but bombastic battle sequences but there are several engagements that allow this mix to flex its dynamic muscle. Clarity and detail are exemplary which reveal lots of subtle nuance in the recording. Bass isn't pulse pounding but it definitively augments the richness and tangibility of small arms fire and the potency of large artillery and grenade blasts/explosions. Dialogue was crystalline with excellent intonation and descriptive character. The beautifully crafted music sounded smooth, and airy with a deep, room filling quality that was engaging.
- (HD) Deeds not words - A discussion with Director Spike Lee, Author James McBride and WWII veterans - 17 minutes
- (HD) The Buffalo Soldier experience - The history, struggles, and first hand accounts of the Buffalo Solider during WWII - 20 minute documentary
- (HD) 9 deleted scenes
Miracle at St. Anna is a film that is based upon actual events that took place during WWII in Italy. It depicts the experiences of a group of Buffalo Soldiers from the 92nd regiment who encountered a small community in need of a miracle. While there were moments in this film that I found entertaining there were others that seemed to require just a bit too much belief on the part of the viewer. Having not read the book I can't comment on the spin that Hollywood may have placed on the story. I think it runs longer than necessary and includes details that offer no significant value to the story and could have been left out. Its lossless high definition audio is excellent and its stylized video presentation isn't the type that offers demonstration quality video but it plays well to the director's intention. The bonus features are rather slim in content but decent in quality and are worth a look. My advice would be to give this one a rent as I think it does have something to offer from a historical standpoint.
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