Miracle at St. Anna (2008)
Set in 1944 Italy, the story of four black American soldiers who get trapped in a Tuscan village during WWII.
Christmas, 1983. A New York postal clerk, a Buffalo Soldier in Italy in World War II, shoots a stranger. In his apartment, police find a valuable Italian marble head, missing since the war. Flashbacks tell the story of four Black soldiers who cross Tuscany's Serchio River, dodging German and friendly fire. With a shell-shocked boy in tow, they reach the village of Colognora. Orders via radio tell them to capture a German soldier for questioning about a counteroffensive. In the village, a beautiful woman, partisans that include a traitor and a local legend, the boy, and the story of a recent massacre connect to the postal worker's anguish forty years later. And the miracle?
In the fall of 1944, four African-American soldiers find themselves caught behind enemy lines and surrounded by German soldiers. They take refuge in a small Italian village that has been temporarily vacated by the Germans. In their company in a small boy, obviously shell-shocked and feverish, who seems only to speak to his invisible friend Arturo. Tensions rise among the four men not only because of their life-threatening situation but also because two of them become rivals for the attention of an attractive young woman. When they manage to make contact with their unit, they are told to capture a German soldier for questioning and with the aid of the Italian partisans, have a candidate. What they don't realize is that there is a traitor in the partisan group, one that will have major repercussion on one of the men 40 years later.
In New York, the elder employee of the post-office, Hector Negron, goes on a rampage killing a client by shooting him with a Luger. The rookie reporter of the Daily News, Tim Boyle, follows the detectives that are investigating the case. They find the valuable head of the statue Primavera in his wardrobe. Tim decides to interview the catatonic Hector. Out of the blue, he starts talking about the 92nd Division "Buffalo Soldiers" in Tuscan, Italy, in World War II. Hector and three other soldiers - 2nd Staff Sergeant Aubrey Stamps, Sergeant Bishop Cummings and the slow Private First Class Sam Train - cross a river. However his company is destroyed by the German soldiers. While trapped in a village, Train rescues the eight year-old boy, Angelo Torancelli, who survived a massacre in St. Anna village, and they become connected to each other. As times go on, the platoon interacts with the villagers and Hector discloses a story of prejudice and betrayal in times of war.
- Two days before the Christmas of 1983 in New York City where an aged Puerto Rican World War II veteran Hector Negron (Laz Alonso) is working as a clerk at a post office. In the midst of helping a customer, Negron suddenly seems to recognize the man and immediately pulls a World War II-era German Luger from under the counter and shoots the man in the chest, killing him instantly.
Several hours later, reporter Tim Boyle (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Detective Antonio Ricci (John Turturro) are at the crime scene seeking information. After some persuasion, Ricci allows Boyle to accompany two other officers who are going to search Negron's apartment, where the men discover a finely carved stone head, which is revealed to be a long missing segment from the Ponte Santa Trinita, a Florentine bridge built during the Renaissance which had been destroyed by the Nazis during the war. Also found is a Purple Heart, and a shot of a picture reveals he was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star. Boyle begs an explanation from Negron, who then has a flashback to his experiences in the war.
His personal journey through the war is displayed in a flashback which starts off where African- Americans and a black Puerto Rican man from the segregated Buffalo Soldiers 92nd Infantry Division are on patrol in 1944 Italy. After a disastrous attack on German positions across the Serchio River, in which an officer calls down artillery on their own position because he refuses to believe their reports of how far they have advanced, four soldiers are stranded on the wrong side of the river: Staff Sergeant Aubrey Stamps, Sergeant Bishop Cummings, Corporal Hector Negron and Private Samuel Train. Train finds an Italian boy named Angelo who is critically wounded. While traveling through the mountains of Tuscany, they come across a small village whose residents form a bond with the soldiers.
After Negron finally gets his backpack radio working, they call in to headquarters and are told to capture an enemy soldier to interrogate about German counterattack plans. The local partisan group arrives with a young German ex-Waffen-SS/Wehrmacht Corporal (ex-Rottenführer/Obergefreiter) Hans Brandt captive, who is actually a deserter, having shot at a major while rescuing the boy Angelo from the massacre by the SS at the nearby village of St. Anna before transferring to the Wehrmacht where he deserts again. One of the partisans knows that the German captive can identify him as a traitor. After concealing the fact that German forces are approaching the village as part of a counterattack, the traitor kills the German captive. When the partisan leader confronts him, the traitor kills him too and escapes. (It is the traitor whom Negron will shoot 39 years later in the post office).
While in the town, after the death of the German prisoner, Negron, Train's, Bishop's, and Stamp's commanderthe same one who had called down artillery on their headsarrives in the village to interrogate the German prisoner, but finds him dead. The Americans prepare to leave the village ahead of the German counterattack, but Train refuses to leave the boy behind, and assaults a lieutenant who attempts to separate them. Ludovico, one of the villagers, declares Train the "Sleeping Man" after seeing a resemblance between him and a local mountain invested by legend with protective qualities. After promising to court-martial all four soldiers, the officer and his contingent begin to drive out of town, but are caught in the German offensive. The remaining Americans and partisans hold their ground, killing many Germans, but are too heavily outnumbered. Train is fatally wounded after being shot twice while carrying the boy and dies soon thereafter. Bishop and Negron hold off the Germans while Stamps tries to get the villagers to safety, until Bishop is shot and dies. Renata, who is Stamps' and Bishop's love interest throughout the film, is killed along with her father; Stamps is soon shot and killed too. Now with only Negron alive, while trying to retreat, he is shot in the back but is saved by his radio. Angelo gives Negron the statue head that Train had carried since Florence, believing it carried magical powers. Negron gives Angelo his rosary and tells him to leave. Angelo is led away by the spirit of his brother Arturo, who had been killed during the massacre at St. Anna. Negron is spared by German Officer Eicholz, a former English teacher and the German prisoner's superior officer, who hands him his own Luger and says, "Defend yourself." More Americans arrive and secure the village and evacuate the wounded Negron. He receives a Purple Heart for his injury, and he is guaranteed a ride home due to injury.
The movie then switches back to January 1984 to a court proceeding. In the end, Negron is saved from life in prison by a powerful executive attorney hired by a wealthy man who has made a fortune making seat belts and other safety devices, and who also purchased the statue head. Hector is brought to the Bahamas and is reunited with the statue head accompanied by its new owner. He holds it crying how he was the only one who knows about what happened during the time in the village. The owner tells him he is not the only one who knows, and takes out a rosary revealing himself as the grown Angelo. They both hold Hector's rosary and happily burst into tears.
In this movie appears Christian Berkel who will later play the role of Fritz Shimon Haber in Haber (2008).