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'Saints and Soldiers' DVD Review *** 092905
The Work = ***
In the world of so-called independent cinema there is one sub genre that is often overlooked: religious films. More recently they have come into the spotlight thanks to the crazy success of Mel Gibson’s 'Passion of the Christ' flic’. I probably wouldn’t have been so aware of the genre were it not for film author and producer John Pierson. I may have the details wrong but he had a show that (I think I have this right) was called 'Split Screen' and aired on the IFC Channel. In a particular episode he opened my eyes to the genre with a story he did on it.
Since then I have kind of kept my eye out for films of the genre out of curiosity. What would qualify as a religious independent film in my mind is one that puts the message of faith or spreading the message of a faith first as say a central theme and builds around that. Certainly, this is not set in stone and I am by no means a film scholar, I’m just a dork writing reviews. Besides religious symbolism is a staple of a large percentage of cinema if not all of it. Films like those by Martin Scorsese and Abel Ferrera are often heavy with Catholic imagery.
The interesting thing about religious independent cinema is it never really has to reach for mainstream audiences. They generally know their target audience and play to it. If it is a film made by and for say, born again Christians than that is the audience that the producers are concerned with, everyone else is a bonus. This is no different for any other genre of cinema, like say romantic comedies targeted at 30 something’s. I bring this up because 'Saints and Soldiers' is one film that crosses over and plays to wide audiences as well as having some not so subtle elements that play to the religious fan base. To get even more finicky, it is a member of a specific genre of religious film: LDS films or Mormon films.
Although it is never exactly stated in the movie, one of the main characters Deacon’ played by Corbin Allred, would seem to be a Mormon. He mentions being a missionary, doesn’t drink or smoke, and drinks hot lemonade instead of coffee. Since this film was made by a studio that only makes religious cinema that was no doubt a starting point or at least a hook for this film. That should not be held against 'Saints and Soldiers'. (Depending how much you want to read into the title, that in and of itself could be a bit of a play on words.) The film holds its own and really only the clichés of the script are what keeps it from being a better movie. Recommended.
DVD = ***
Sanitizing war so someone can see what it is like is in itself a contradiction. I can understand wanting to let young people see the sacrifice but there are mediums and ways of presenting the material without turning it into a cartoon. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen for the most part in the film Saints and Soldiers. It has been mentioned that the lack of blood is noticeable onscreen by some critics but I don’t necessarily agree. To my mind the small puffs of dust that spray when characters are shot onscreen look not that afar from what the real thing often looked like. Yes, some moments that would have been more graphic in real life are restrained or not shown altogether but it is not overly noticeable and there is in fact blood present in the movie.
Getting off my tangent and back to the featurette it is an enjoyable enough but very light look at some of the making of 'Saints and Soldiers'. It covers a wide ground but much like the commentary is kinda’ info light and doesn’t really mention LDS cinema. I think that is a shame because the religious element is certainly an important aspect in this film’s production and acknowledging it would not hurt the film in anyway. It’s a minor point but one I noticed. Finally the film’s trailer rounds out the brief features and looks pretty good.
All together = ***
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