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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