So many films about war, and especially about WW II, focus on the 'good guys' (read Allied troops) versus 'bad guys' (read Germans) and the monumental confrontations that have gained heroic monikers like D-Day, Normandy, Battle of the Bulge, etc. The film crews spend millions to re-enact these epic battles. At times the individuals within the massive units are brought into focus ('Saving Private Ryan', etc) but primarily they are frontal decoration for the Big Effects created to stun the audience.
Then comes along a small scale independent film like SAINTS AND SOLDIERS and while the battles are there and realistically created, this time they are background settings for this intimate story of the survival of four men and how that survival and a concerted mission serve to allow each to become wholly vulnerable despite all the societal taboos for honest, fragile emotions in men at war. The only other film of this scale and intent that comes to mind is the Peter Berg 1992 film A MIDNIGHT CLEAR.
The story of SIANTS AND SOLDIERS revolves around true events - the massacre of US soldiers at Malmedy, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. Four young soldiers escape the German horror: Deacon (Corbin Allred), a lad without vices who had been a pre-war missionary (? Mormon) in Berlin and speaks the language; Medic Steven Gould (Alexander Niver) who was forced to give up Medical School to go to war; Gordon Gunderson (Peter Holden) who has bonded with Deacon; Private Shirl Kendrick (Lawrence Bagby) who is a simple Mississippi boy who has never been kissed. Joining them early on is the parachute entrapped Flight Sergeant Oberon Winley (Kirby Heyborne) who has urgent intelligence gained from reconnaissance during a shot-down plane mission. Together these men survive the cold of winter, lack of food and shelter and adequate arms, and set out on a mission to help Winley deliver his coded intelligence to the Allied troops, a fact that could save thousands of lives.
Along the way we learn the various secrets about the individual men's lives back home and their psychological baggage that accompanies them in the snow forests of Belgium. Each has a burden and each learns from the others, agonizing as some are lost, yet compelled to complete their task: Deacon copes with the fact that he mistakenly destroyed a mother and children in a raid, disillusioned Medic Gould has lost faith in a higher being because of the sights of the war and languishes over Deacon's humanity to even the Germans, Gunderson is obsessed with defending Deacon's near fall into shell shock, etc. The now five men are propelled along the course of the war growing from each other's spirits.
The photography for this low budget film is utterly magnificent and was shot by the director Ryan Little himself. The story, based on fact, was altered and adapted for the screen by Geoffrey Panos and Matt Whitaker. The actors are true to ensemble acting - all sensitive, each well performed. And while it is difficult to isolate individuals, the work of Alexander Niver and Corbin Allred is extraordinary. Crowning this deeply moving film is the powerful, sensitive, beautiful musical score by J Bateman and Bart Hendrickson. This is one of those perfectly written, directed, acted, photographed, and scored little wonders that restore faith in the integrity of movies. Highly Recommended for all audiences. Grady Harp, February 07
Pros: well done, tight script and cast, musical score Cons: none The Bottom Line: "'Cause in the heaven I'm headed to There's a place for preachers, thieves and prostitutes Saints and soldiers, beggers, kings and renegades" ~ Dierks Bentley What I found most interesting about Saints and Soldiers was the fact that it actually gave me something to understand about history. It was never one of … more
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Australia released, PAL/Region 0 DVD: it WILL NOT play on standard US DVD player. You need multi-region PAL/NTSC DVD player to view it in USA/Canada: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital 2.0 ), WIDESCREEN, SPECIAL FEATURES: Trailer(s), SYNOPSIS: A handful of fighting men must defy the odds to save their own lives and thousands of others in this drama set during World War II. In late 1944, a band of nearly a hundred American soldiers are making their way through a wooded region of Belgium when they are ambushed by German forces in a battle that became known as 'the Malmady Massacre.' Inspired by a true story, Saints and Soldiers was the first feature film from Ryan Little a Utah-based filmmaker who previously made a number of short subjects relating to issues of faith in the Church of Latter Day Saints.