Pros: well done, tight script and cast, musical score
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 my favorite subjects but this movie put a face on an event, which made it seem more real to me. Frankly, reading about all these things in a book, in a classroom, just held no reality for me. Nothing like we were introduced to with the media coverage of events in my own lifetime, like Vietnam, Dessert Storm, etc.
Saints and Soldiers focuses on a band of four soldiers, survivors of the Malmedy Massacre, December, 1944. The men are behind the enemy lines, no survival gear, tired and hungry. Two things occur quickly; they find a farmhouse with a mother and child and they meet up with a British flight sergeant who has coded information he needs to get to the front lines.
As they huddle in the basement/storage area of the farmhouse, with the owners blessing, a group of German soldiers arrive. One of their men is gravely injured and they seek refuge in the farmhouse as well, again with the owners blessing. She has one rule, though, no fighting and no guns under her roof.
There are many incredulous happenings in this release, which is based on actual events. One of the Americans, a Mormon, known as Deacon, had done missionary work in Germany before the war. He made many fast friends and became quite fluent in the language. One of the German soldiers that show up in the farmhouse is a previous close friend from his missionary days in Germany. Deacon, played beautifully by Corbin Allred, puts a delicate innocence in the depths of this depressing war. I also enjoyed the way they explored his religious beliefs and his personal commitment to his friends and country.
We discover many truths about the players in this small band of soldiers, on both sides of the war. In a way, they humanize something that is devastatingly brutal and surreal. The characters are people that remain, long after the story ends on your screen.
For a story of this magnitude, it was done on a fairly small budget of under 1 million and filmed in less than a month. Director Ryan Little also handled the camera work, showing great depth in both venues. Much of the film was shot with handheld cameras making it seem even more intimate and bringing you closer to the action of the film.
The horrific massacre that opens the film was done by a group of war re-enactors, who traveled to the location at their own expense. This darkly foreboding sequence sets the stage for the balance of the film and introduces us to our small band of soldiers, fighting a lonely battle. As painful as the scenes appear, the scenery is so beautiful that you sometimes forget to notice the bodies piling up or the red staining the snow. Filming was done in Utah with a bold starkness that seemed almost haunting at times. A wonderful and fluid soundtrack by J. Bateman and Bart Henderson added special attention to many parts of the movie.
The extras on the DVD gives us inside information on how cleverly the backers of this movie pulled it all together with little money, unknown talent, and limited time. Also included are interviews with the writers, Geoffrey Panos and Matt Whittaker, along with film commentary by the writers as well as director and producer.
This is a surprisingly good film. Tightly made, professionally done, reminiscent of older war type films. It is a look at an event that received little attention, dwarfed by so many other battles at that time. Focusing less on the actual battles on the battleground and more on the battles within the heart and soul of the warriors. It delves into their personal fears, dreams, hopes, plans and all the things we hide away in the recesses of our minds.
Running time is 90 minutes, PG-13 rating. It was nominated for 18 awards, winning 16 in multiple categories. Some minor trivia: Charles Durning, with countless film and TV credits, is an actual survivor of the Malmedy Massacre; all guns used were real and fully operational, modified to shoot blanks; the photo that Deacon carries throughout the film is of his grandmother and is the same photo his grandfather carried throughout his stint in WWII. For those unaware of the Malmedy Massacre, it occurred on December 17,1944, when 90 unarmed American prisoners of war were executed by their German captors. For an outstanding synopsis and detailed information about this movie and event, visit: http://saintsandsoldiers.com/
It is a beautiful website with outstanding detail.
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. … more
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.