There's a lot of mixed comments floating around out there concerning this film. I'd consider myself a war film fan. Now, at the time of this writing, if you look at my user comments most of those reviews are for Italian trash flicks. But I own a good 250+ war films; this is one of those that stuck with me.
Ethan Hawke takes a patrol (made up of scared kids) to a French house during the Battle of the Bulge. Their mission is basically to snoop around for German activity. They run into a squad of equally scared teenage soldiers, and arrange a mutual peace. But at the last moment, something goes wrong...
While at least 70% of war movies rely on loud explosions and gunfire, fast-moving action, quick cutting and other action to keep the viewer involved in the story, A MIDNIGHT CLEAR relies almost completely on great acting and visual stimulation.
Leading the young, talented cast is Ethan Hawke. He's mostly an introver, keeping to himself, thinking out the logic of every situation. He's not the most experienced soldier in the unit, and knows it, so he leaves most of the tactical decisions up to Avakian (Kevin Dillon of PLATOON). "Father" Mundy (Frank Whaley, WHEN TRUMPETS FADE) is the good-natured guy who wants to become a priest. Miller (Peter Berg) goes along with the others in the group. Stan (Arye Gross) is a Jew with only one goal in mind. They all look out for "Mother" Wilkins (Gary Sinise from PATH TO WAR, in the best role of the film), who's gone more than half-mad after losing his newborn back home. Curt Lowens (TOBRUK) also makes an impact as an aging German soldier who just wants to go home.
The script is nearly perfect, providing each actor with excellent material. Hawke's narration is often funny, but when one thinks about it, what he's saying is not far from the terrible truth. The scenery is great; the entire film looks like it was filmed in - well - the Ardennes. The colors have been played around with a bit, and throughout the film you'll feel as though you're wandering through a dream.
The few combat scenes are used to shock - not entertain. The one really gut-wrenching movement involves the fake ambush, with men pointlessly killed on both sides. Blood stains the beautiful white snow, and all of the innocence is lost.
Just watch this film and see how much damage war does on the minds and nerves of the men involved - on both sides. This is what it was like: scared kids, sometimes still in their late teens, who knew what to do when they had superiors commanding them. But when they got out on their own, what will they do? It's like THE THIN RED LINE, only here the men seem real. They're not a bunch of pretty boys who talk and act as though they graduated from Oxford. They're kids from a variety of lives who are trying to make the best of a bad situation, which is all you can do during wartime.
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