Inspired by the December 1944 massacre of 86 unarmed American soldiers outside Malmedy, Belgium, this war-time fable is actually a Mormon production, but it curiously downplays its provenance. After being disarmed and fired upon by a German unit, the survivors of the so-called "Malmedy Massacre" scatter into the surrounding forest. Trudging through the knee-deep snow are exhausted sharpshooter Nathan "Deacon" Greer (Corbin Allred); levelheaded Sergeant Gunderson (Peter Holden); Steven Gould (Alexander Niver), a battle-hardened medic, and good ol' Southern soldier Shirl Kendrick (Lawrence Bagby); they're later joined by Oberon Winley (Kirby Heyborne), a downed R.A.F. pilot carrying a vital piece of intelligence. A panzer division is about to cross the Muse River en route to the biggest ammo dump in Europe, and if they're not stopped, the Germans will recapture Antwerp. Deacon is given possession of this ragtag band's sole weapon, but his wits have been rattled by a terrible accident that occurred just days before: While attempting to kill a sniper, Deacon hit two old women and six little girls with a grenade. But Deacon hasn't lost his deep faith in the Lord, as his conversations with the deeply jaded Gould demonstrate. For his part, Gould has little use for God and believes the prayers of the dying fall upon deaf ears. Guess which one dies a martyr's death and which one learns a lesson in salvation and the brotherhood of man? Learning to love thy enemy amid the horror of the Holocaust is easier when you ignore what these German soldiers (the word "Nazi" is barely spoken) are fighting for, and the fact that such "ordinary men" aided and abetted the systematic murder of millions of civilians. Although the film's religious persuasion is never stated outright, it's not hard to discern: Deacon's nickname, the fact that he left his Mormon-founded hometown of Snowflake, Arizona, to do missionary work in Berlin and the host of prohibitions that guide his behavior are certain signs that our hero belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Similarly, the religious beliefs of Gould, a swarthy medical student from Brooklyn Heights who seems to have a personal beef against the Germans, are never revealed, but his rather crude characterization falls uncomfortably close to Jewish stereotypes. That the film seems willing to erect a simple religious parable on such a moral morass is bewildering. That it should do so without accurately depicting the nightmare of Hitler's Europe is unconscionable.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Inspired by the December 1944 massacre of 86 unarmed American soldiers outside Malmedy, Belgium, this war-time fable is actually a Mormon production, but it curiously downplays its provenance. After being disarmed and fired upon by a German unit, the survi… (more)