I don’t know how they do it. The makers of both “Saints and Soldiers” movies have managed to make rich-looking, heartfelt World War II films that appear and sound like they’ve come right out of a Steven Spielberg blockbuster.
“Saving Private Ryan” cost $70 million to make — in 1998. This film cost, from what I’ve heard, $200,000, with some compensation deferred. That’s unbelievable.
I call this second installment “Saving Private Christian,” because it has so many similar features of that earlier Spielberg epic, with an added element of a religious sentiment. Yet, it’s never specific to any religion and never heavy-handed.
In August 1944, a U.S. parachute regiment was dropped over Southern France in an effort to turn back the Nazis toward Berlin. The group lands behind enemy lines, must fight its way back to Allied forces and try not to die in the process.
The soldiers will encounter French freedom fighters determined to take back their country, but the landscape is filled with the German opposition equally determined to hold its ground.
It deals with traditional issues confronting most soldiers in war. How can one justify killing another while still maintaining his own moral values? Can humanity sometimes overcome the brutality of war? How far would one go to survive? How do faith and honor hold up in the face of utter destruction and chaos?
These are all monumental questions facing every soldier — and perhaps if there are any faults with this film, they lie in the oversimplification and squeaky-clean nature of a movie trying to get down and dirty, without getting too down and dirty.
War is hell, but in this case, it might just be heck.
Still, I was amazed at the professional texture of both the acting and the filmmaking. The scene with the German and American soldiers trapped in a barn together, wondering if they could even consider trusting a sworn enemy, was powerful and believable.
All of those committed to this project can be proud of the work they’ve done here. And while I didn’t quite like this film as much as I did the previous one, it holds up very well and is a credit to the talent base that continues to grow within the Beehive State.