This WW2 psychological drama plays out at Christmas. US GIs hold an isolated cabin in the Ardennes against a handful of Germans cut off from their main force. Combat-weary and short of rations, both sides are determined to survive.
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Kirk B.R. Woller
Set in 1944 France, in the Ardennes forest region, an American Intelligence Squad locates a German platoon wishing to surrender rather than die in Germany's final war offensive. The two groups of men, isolated from the war at present, put aside their differences and share a Christmas celebration. The surrender plan includes a mock battle that turns bad when one of the soldiers is unaware of the surrender plan. Written by
Anthony Hughes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The interiors of the mansion were built in the gymnasium of a local high school. The attic set was constructed on the stage of the school's theater. See more »
When Miller checks the frozen corpses of the German and American soldiers with his bayonet, he uses his left arm. In some shots, though, he is using his right arm. See more »
It's thanks to Griffin and his military mortuary skills that I've made my recent headlong leap to three stripes. We lost half our squad, attempting one of his map-inspired, ill-conceived recon patrols. When I say 'lost', I mean 'killed'. Nobody in the army ever admits that someone on our side is killed. They're either lost, like Christopher Robin... hit, as in a batter hit by a pitched ball... or they get 'it' like in hide-and-go-seek. Or maybe they 'get it', as with an ambiguous joke.
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It's a war film, but an atypical and sober one at that. Probably war drama fits better. As there's a whole lot more to it than just action. On that count it has its moments, but really it's about the characters (if something of a coming of age) and the realisation that their enemy is just as reluctant and afraid as them. The script is meditatively thoughtful and the performances by a capable cast (Ethan Hawke, Kevin Dillon, Peter Berg, Gary Sinise, Frank Whaley, Arye Gross and John C. McGinley's pig-headed Major Griffin) are genuinely layered. This helps draw you in, feeling the joy but also the tragic nature that waits. It absorbingly paints the foolishness of war, where in a serenely ironic manner it all pans out. It follows a small young American reconnaissance platoon nearing the end of WW2 in Eastern Europe, which was put together due to them having the highest I.Q. in the army. Thinking that they would get better results, however on their mission they come across a patrol of German soldiers hiding from their inevitable fate and a special, if strange bond is formed between the two parties. Written and directed by Keith Gordon (who I'll always remember him as Arnie Cunningham from John Carpenter's 80s horror flick "Christine"), he does an effective job tailoring the welcoming humanity and the painstaking horrors of war through the visuals, dialogues, atmospheric surroundings and performances. The narrative moves back and forth early on dealing with past events that brought these American soldiers together, before settling on the straight-and-narrow. The material is rather offbeat and mellow, especially when it came to the interactions between the two groups. What seems unfathomable, becomes reality and then even playful (snowball fights?!). There's something simply haunting and forlorn about this presentation and you could probably attributed it to the beautifully moody, if glassy music score. It just stays with you. Like the final shot of the film, where the camera pans onto Hawke's face of despair and this is one powerfully heartfelt moment. "A Midnight Clear" is quite low-key and unpredictable in all, but hard to forget.
"I'm through playing soldier."
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