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  • There is the classic, or `Golden Age,' of WWII based movies, from the 50s, 60s and 70s; and then there is the age of ultra-realism: those movies about WWII (or any war for that matter), that because you can show more on film, be more graphic in war's depiction, and because cinema has changed so much, it allows us to see more of how war actual was, instead of the watered down versions we had been getting for years. Don't get me wrong. When most of us speak of such classics like `Sands of Iwo Jima,' `The Longest Day,' or `A Bridge Too Far' (and so many other great WWII movies), we are perfectly right to sing our praises of such timeless standards. Nevertheless, there is a good chance that we should be even more grateful for these modern WWII gems that have raised the bar to permit us a closer glimpse of how this war really felt to those who fought in it. I suppose all I can say at this point would be to watch `A Midnight Clear,' and perhaps you would understand why I would choose this movie to be ranked only behind the likes of `Band of Brothers' and `Saving Private Ryan.' Then watch some other modern ultra-real WWII flicks like `When Trumpets Fade,' `Das Boot' and maybe even `Cross of Iron;' and then gauge for yourself. `A Midnight Clear,' though not really smacking of anti-war themes, yet showing the futility and absurdity that only propels us to hold our breath; it is a perfect example of not only reality, but of how a WWII movie works with probably no more than 50 rounds fired throughout the whole film. Poetic (though not as much as `The Thin Red Line'), great dialog, and a premise that is built much on fact. Largely based upon a true story, and taken from the book by a WWII veteran that was actually there, this movie keeps great company among the new ultra-real films; and it simply moves me. I hope it moves you, as well. 9.4
  • Once upon a time in northern France on late summer night in 1944, there was a sergeant in his mid-twenties, an armorer who normally fixed the big guns when they broke down or cleared hangfires from them. ("Lonely goddamn work, I'll have you know.")

    When his turn in the rotation came up every few nights, he would man the forward-observer post duty for the artillery battalion in which he served. He and a private went forward with binoculars and a field telephone to call in fire missions if they saw anything moving. And that particular night they did: Like silent spectres out of the darkness came a handful of German infantryman who, even in the poor light and from hundreds of yards away, were staggering with exhaustion, hungry, dirty. A mess wagon came forward and set up to feed them what must have been their first hot meal in days or even weeks. Patton's advance had been pressing them eastward across France without letup.

    "Sarge? Aren't you gonna call this in?"

    "No. Not yet. Let's let those poor sons of bitches finish their chow first."

    When the Germans had finally eaten their fill, a couple had lit cigarettes, and the mess wagon was turning around to leave, Dad finally called the battery plotter with the coordinates. He made the German soldiers and the mess wagon disappear in a rain of 155-mm howitzer shells.

    At the time the movie finally made it to cable, Dad had only a few months to live. When I saw this movie, I couldn't get that story of his out of my head. Knowing how bitter and disgusted he felt about the war -- "I was a political prisoner of Franklin Delano Roosevelt" was how he put it -- I realized that this movie was too powerful for him to see.

    I realize this is more a personal anecdote than a remark about the movie per se, but it says something about the tone and impact of Gordon and Wharton's story that I was finally able to understand, just a little bit, why I saw Dad sitting alone at the breakfast table in the middle of the night, chain-smoking in the darkness, for all those decades. And the horrific glimpse this film gave me sobers me to this day.

    In memoriam: Amzi R. McClain (1920-1999), T/Sgt, Batt A 721st FA Btn 66th Inf Div 1943-1945
  • This movie was on Bravo last night but was terribly edited so I stopped watching and stuck my video taped copy into the VCR. This movie truly grew on me over time. I had planned to see it in the theater in, I think 1993, when it was released but it was in theaters for such a brief time that I lost my opportunity. I'm very happy to see that other posters here were also profoundly affected by this movie. The first time I'd seen it I was dumbstruck and truly didn't know what to make of it. Like many, I'd been fed a steady diet of WW2 movies with John Wayne, William Holden, Richard Widmark, and the like. They were all of a jingostic testosterone bent and featured stirring musical scores, minimal blood, and happy endings, as in all the Germans/Japanese die. This was the first WW2 movie I'd ever seen that dispensed with all that crap and gave you a sense of how war makes victims of everybody, sparing no one it's violent assault on our sanity. For this Keith Gordon/William Wharton, Mike Nichols/Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegaut, James Jones, Norman Mailer, John Hersey should all be praised for their courage to discard ideological dogma and poignantly lament our violated humanity. They may have, dare I say, stepped upon an enlightend plain where even Steven Spielberg has yet to trod. His movies are remarkable presentations of events, but do not explore any issues that might touch upon this theme of the individual, powerless, human suffering in war time. They are far more traditional morality plays. In short this movie makes you truly feel sorrow for these dead, good intentioned German (Nazi) Soldiers who wanted nothing more than to end their misery as fodder in der Fuherer's army. I was struck By the scene in which Will Knott stares into the eyes of the German officer who's face betrays a million nightmarish images of the Russian front and perhaps some horrible deeds for which he has paid a dear price in guilt worthy of Macbeth. This was one of many scenes which conveyed so much with out a single line of script. Just the faces of the experience guiding the viewer. Mark Ishams fantastic musical score helped quite a bit to. For those who hated this movie, I'm not sure what to say. If your looking for a very heavy-handed war movie this is not for you. If, however, you appreciate the deft and delicate hand in conveying a powerful message and making a powerful statement, than you will be richly rewarded by a movie you will never forget.
  • 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."
  • Warning: Spoilers
    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.
  • First off, If you haven't yet seen this film, I recommend you do so ASAP. But, considering A Midnight Clear is underrated and relatively unknown, anyone reading this message has most likely already seen the film. Not only is the acting brilliant and emotionally charged, the premise is excellent as well. Set in 1944, this small intelligence group is forced to report on any pending, incoming German attacks, something that turns to mystery and evidently reveals the true horrors of war. Combined with an innovative director and a wonderfully tragic score, I must say A Midnight Clear is one of my favorite war movies, second only to Glory in my opinion. Others on my list would include Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Braveheart, Black Hawk Down, The Bridge Over the River Kwai and Schindler's List (if that can be considered a war film). To say that this movie tops all those others is an incredible testament to its greatness.
  • castielminion128 September 2009
    I had to order this movie in from the US because you can't get it in Britain. But it was worth all the hassle of tracking it down because it is an amazing movie. Ethan Hawke is great as the young Sergent who must lead a group of frightened young soldiers to the German front. Gary Sinise is amazing as the emotionally damaged "Mother" Wilkins, and the supporting cast is great too! When the group discovers a Nazi camp of soldiers who have lost the will to fight, an uneasy truce is formed, which will ultimately and in tragedy as the American Platoon try to protect "Mother." The movie is brilliantly acted and with a emotionally powerful ending. (I was very nearly crying at the end!!!!) Defiantely worth hunting down!!!!
  • "A Midnight Clear" is a film that reminds me of the wonderful French film, "Joyeaux Noel". However, instead of being set during WWI, this American film is set just before the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. Both occur at Christmas time...and both involve a strange sort of cessation of hostilities.

    The story is about a tiny reconnaissance group of American soldiers. They have the thankless task of scouting ahead of the rest of the army...and not surprisingly many in their small unit have already been killed. There are two main plots that result. First, they are discovered by a group of German soldiers who do not attack but instead wish to surrender. But, in order to prevent the SS back home from taking retribution against them for not fighting, they propose to make it look like they surrendered only after a horrible fire fight. Sadly, it does NOT go down as they'd planned. Second, after this, when the Major meets up with them, this commanding officer mostly screams at them and threatens them...and leaves them back at their forward base. When the German offensive begins, they're soon stuck behind enemy lines and they have to work hard to find their way back to the Allied lines.

    Despite some similarities to "Joyeaux Noel", it is different enough and somber enough to be a different film viewing experience. For the most part, it's just the story of a few men trying to survive...and the thankless tasks they've been given. Well made and worth seeing.
  • joed166717 December 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    I first saw this movie when it came out in the theaters and have the DVD, which I watch every December. I thought it was very well made but was very disappointed when I learned this movie is not factual but a work of fiction, based on the book by William Wharton who was 19 in 1944. The movie was unlike those phony John Wayne type war movies of the 50's and 60's. This movie showed the soldiers fears they had to deal with and the conditions for which they lived. Their brief stay in the Château must've been a life of luxury compared to living in a tent back at base or manning a foxhole on the front lines. Frank Whaley's dying scene seemed so real, unlike all those other phony Hollywood war movies from the years mentioned where the soldier clutches their wound, falls to the ground and gives a passion speech before peacefully dying.

    The one posters comments from his father of "I was a political prisoner of Franklin Delano Roosevelt" is disturbing and he must not have made it to liberate the concentration camps to understand why we were there and fought the Germans. This review could very well be in German if not for FDR and the blunders made by the Japanese and Germans.
  • This is one of those films that when it finishes you can't find words for a while, to express the feelings it stimulates. I was one of the few who saw this in the theater, and I was stunned by the power of the acting, and surprisingly enough, the writing.

    If after seeing this you can't see the futility of war, you've missed something. This is in the same class as All Quiet on the Western Front, Gallipoli, and Breaker Morant.
  • A Great war movie that doesn't get envolved with the killing and blood. It deals with the souls of a small german (not NAZI) squad and US special forces squad. Gets you in the head of young kids going to war and how the people on the other side aren't all that different.
  • This little known film is actually an excellent piece of movie making. We are led through the film via the thoughts of the main character who is a squad sergeant of a hi-iq troop during WWII. The viewer learns for themselves that war is hell,more mentally as opposed to physically. Bravo to Kevin Gordon the author of the novel as well as being the films director. Great cast,particularly Gary Sinise, Ethan Hawke,Ayre Gross and Peter Berg.
  • I saw the film when it was in theatres nearly 20 years ago. As for scary films set in a snow-bound mansion, I found this to be ten times as creepy as The Shining. This is not a horror film, but certain images in the first half of the film are as horrifying as anything I've seen in film since then. I don't mean gore or grue. I mean ghost-story horror.

    A war movie/horror film? Has anything ever been done like that? I think this film is in a genre all its own. I guess this is an anti-war film. If you wish to view it as such. It certainly does not make the viewer want to rush out and fight a war. In the cast are John McGinley and Kevin Dillon, both from the cast of "Platoon," but here in significantly different roles.

    I regret to say I've not been able to totally analyze and deconstruct this film. I can't tell you what it's all about, or what you should think or feel as you watch it. There is so much going on in this film. I saw it in the theatre nearly twenty years ago, and then again on cable when I taped it, about 16 years ago. I watched it again tonight. It was just as spooky and just as impressive as it was two decades ago.

    I totally loved this film. My father fought in the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest, very close in time and proximity to this story. His battalion, from Pennsylvania, trained at Camp Shelby (in Mississippi), just as the soldiers in this film. Some horrifying things he saw in the forties, he was only able to begin to describe a few years ago.

    This is such a terrific film. For so many different reasons.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I didn't know how to take this film, when I first saw it. But it has made me think, all these years.

    Strange things do happen during war ... and before war: Janice. And "local armistices" sometimes do occur, at great mutual risk.

    Gary Sinise has just been nominated to receive West Point's Sylvanus Thayer Award for 2015, in recognition of his support of American servicepeople, with performances of his Lt. Dan Band - the name from his character in Forrest Gump - among many other things. His portrayal of Mother in Midnight Clear is as compassionate, moving, and thought-provoking as any in cinema.

    The action seems are sufficiently realistic, as is the portrayal of the GI perspective - writing now as a Jan67-Jan69 GI/veteran (thankfully of West Germany not Viet Nam).

    It is superior to Saving Private Ryan, let alone Fury.

    Everyone should see this film and think about it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A Midnight Clear is a gem among modern WWII films. It manages to be wonderfully realistic without the heavy emphasis on blood and gore. This movie centers upon the experiences of some very human individuals, rather than famous battles and vast armies. It employs a very solid cast, most of whom were relatively unknown at the time of production. There is no simple division between Good Guys and Bad Guys; the young German soldiers are very human and likable, while at least one American officer is not. A Midnight Clear does a commendable job of demonstrating the absurdity and ultimate futility of war, without either preaching or denigrating the heroic service of the soldiers of that war. Highly recommended.
  • This movie was by far one of the very best war moves ever made (it is at least in the top 10). What makes this movie even more special is that it was a sleeper film that did not receive enough marketing when it was initially released. This movie, base during WW2 leading up to the Battle of the Bulge (the Ardenes Counter Offensive) and looks at the truly desperate situation of both sides and the senselessness of the German cause, and a bit of anti-war sentiment thrown in. It truly is a wonderfully sad film (yes a very good oxy-moron) that depicts these events. If you appreciate WW2 films, anti-war films, or just a very deep drama, you truly MUST see this movie!
  • whizlue12 November 2005
    This is undoubtedly one of my best favourite war films so far. The film is basically about war and the tragedy it causes, a really typical combination for any war films. Yet, on this film, these two elements are depicted as pure and simple beings built upon the warmth of humanity. If I say Schindller's List is about military dignity and the struggle for humanity, this film is about the unfruitful struggle for the coexistence constrained by the systemic rules and military principles. So, two films take different perceptions and maybe even incomparable, but I love this film more than Schindler's.

    The music, especially the song by Sam Philips, is as melancholic as Mad World by Gary Jules. As far as I have googled (fairly extensively), there is no music CDs sold containing the Sam Philips version of 'It came upon the Midnight Clear' so I eventually recorded the song into MP3 format from a DVD I had bought from If you love Gary Jules's Mad World, you will surely like this, too.

    Although you cannot expect too much on its making quality, if you love a sentimental feeling, this is worth having a look.
  • I liked this film on the whole, especially the story which was subtle enough to be believable. One masterful scene shows a German soldier watching the house the characters are in. This scene only lasts a couple of seconds but really give us a feeling of being watched. Where it failed for me though was in the location. It is set in the Ardennes forest, but as a Brit who has been to the Ardennes this is clearly not where it was filmed. I believe it was filmed in Utah. This is obvious by things such as the trees and the absence of any surfaced roads. this would have done well to make the effort to come to Belgium. Another fault is that the story is set on the verge of a massive German offensive. This I can only assume is 'Wacht am Rhein' otherwise known as the battle of the bulge. This thought started as early as December the 16th and thus would be too early for Christmas. Anyway all in all this is a good film which I enjoy to watch and would advise others interested in WW2 to see it as well as it avoids just showing blood and gore.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ***May contain spoilers***

    I saw this film last Christmas, and I shall watch it again next Saturday. It is not your common war-flick, it's nothing like "Platoon" or "Saving Private Ryan". It's more like "the Deer Hunter", but I found this film way better. It's about a couple of really intelligent soldiers in the end of WW2, who meet some German soldiers who want to surrender to the Americans. They make plans to "capture" the Germans, but it doesn't work out the way they planned it.

    I liked this film very much, it has some beautiful moments, for example when they have a snowball fight, and the part where the Germans have decorated a (Christmas) tree, and sing "O Tannenbaum".

    Nice acting by among others Ethan Hawke, Kevin Dillon, Gary Sinise and Curt Lowens as the oldest German soldier. My rating: 9/10
  • The intentions of the filmmaker are obvious. Pacifism, realism, surrealism all mix into the celluloid brew that is concocted by director Keith Gordon. For those who do not have a vast exposure to cinema this effort would seem like a breath of fresh air.

    If you consider pacifism and realism in World War II movies, "The Thin Red Line" of Terrence Mallick would make this film look juvenile in every department. If you consider surrealism in World War II movies, Sydney Pollack's "Castle Keep" and Mike Nichol's "Catch 22" are far superior in comparison to this effort.

    Keith Gordon's well-intentioned film has several flaws. Someone with basic sense of visuals can see that the film is not shot in Europe. You see a young deer walk out of an abandoned house past soldier crouching with rifles just as a pet dog walks by the master in the master's house. Intelligent young soldiers drop their weapons in a knee jerk reaction to the enemy pointing rifles at them. Gordon could have made the action a bit slower to make the incident more credible.

    The treatment of sound and music is like a breath of fresh air if you are not exposed to European cinema. The build up to consensual sex with a soldier's girlfriend reminds one of films made in France in the Sixties, including the shot of the girl walking between four soldiers on the road the next day. Most of the actors in the movie are credible most of the time.

    I saw this film, probably a censored version, on late-night TV in Dubai. After the film ended the "realistic" treatment of the story seemed too artificial. It was a laudable effort that lacked punch. Compared to Pollack's "Castle Keep", this is kid stuff. Noting the positive comments of other viewers, I think "Castle Keep" deserves a re-release for today's audiences to savor and appreciate.
  • mrcaw127 April 2004
    A Midnight Clear (1991) - Director: Keith Gordon The story is set in 1944 France as an American Intelligence squad locates a German platoon wishing to surrender rather than die in Germany's final war offensive. The two opposing forces put aside their differences and spend Christmas night together before circumstances turn awry and both sides are forced to resume their hostilities. It's hard to see yourself in your enemy's eyes and pull the trigger and this film shows that fact simply and quietly. The film is beautifully photographed and directed as if being talked to by a wise old grand parent.

    Starring Kevin Dillon, Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise, Ayre Gross and Peter Berg among others, the film is a rare offering harkening back to the days of the late '30s WW I film The Grand Illusion. (Color)
  • I picked up this movie at a garage sale and what a find! As an ensemble piece it really works- Hawke, Berg, Sinese, Gross blend into this unit that really works. The first scene in the snowy woods sets the mood really well. Even the initiation into sex fits into the picture, and made me wonder if Wharton had had this happen to him. The twists and turns to the plot carry the film well--I also liked that the film proceeded beyond the incident and was true to itself. Sinese is outstanding. Old men and young boys- alike find war is absurd.. the director has given us a thoughtful war movie.
  • moorespace13 December 2005
    It is worth noting that Keith Gordon (director) met with William Wharton (book author and war veteran) on several occasions and was left with the impression that the 'story' Wharton told is true. Neither author or director could use the 'based on a true story' epitaph simply because the events are completely unverifiable; but reading the book -- and watching the film to a certain degree -- does give a sense that these events did occur.

    Knowing that the film is a reasonably accurate portrayal of real events -- William Wharton was said to be impressed by the final cut -- makes the events portrayed in the film even more moving. It also explains why the director chose to focus on certain scenes to keep the story flowing, it was as if he wanted to commit the 'story' to film before it was forgotten.

    Having said that, there are touches of directorial brilliance and subtlety in this bleak and wintry tale. For example, the panning shot of the squad of soldiers walking through the forest which finishes with the still picture of a frozen hand -- if you even notice it -- is unforgettable.

    These were true events according to the author; it is worth keeping that in mind when you watch the film.
  • JWBizz18 February 2004
    I thought this movie was good. I throughly enjoyed it. I like the story and I like the craft. I like the cast and thought they did a perfect job. The characters could not have been better. If you see it on the big screen, you may be more pleased with it than you would on the small one.
  • This movie has easily become one of my favorites. It deals with the idea that a group of American soldiers, ordinary men, come across a group of German soldiers that are just like them. They end up becoming friends in a way, and want to keep the peace until the war is over. This film deals with the inner insanity of war, and why people do this to each other, even though they know it is wrong.

    This movie touched me in a certain way. I had a father who was in the German Wermacht during the second world war, and he told me before he passed on that he had some experiences of peace with enemy soldiers. Although nothing like in this movie, he told me that sometimes they saw each other, but passed each other by. I have no idea if this is true or not, but it draws similarities to this movie and it's depiction of humanity found.

    For anyone who says there are heros in war, this is dead wrong. There is no right side and wrong side, and there are no heros and John Wayne's. Everyone was scared, wanting it to be over. This film left me saddened feeling sorry for all of them. This film made me think on why we must continue doing this. I know that once people found out what the enemy was really like, instead of the propaganda, they don't want to fight eachother.

    I've never met a WWII veteran who was proud of what they did, they are all emotionally scarred in some way. If the say the are proud, it is just a facade to hide the anguish they experienced. This is a film for all to see, a true masterpiece on an intellectual level.
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