New-Release Tuesday: Saints and Soliders

Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.

So… I’m not a fan of Saving Private Ryan. One of its core messages was about that same as Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers: “Show your enemies no mercy, for you will be shown none.” And Spielberg really drives that mega-budget message home, you may recall, by having that dirty ex-prisoner kraut blast Tom Hanks to kingdom come in the final act.

Okay. That’s just me.

Have you heard about the LDS film Saints and Soldiers? I originally stumbled across this 2003 flick on Netflix, and it is just about as polar opposite a war film as you can get from Ryan and Spielberg. It’s micro-budget, the cast is filled with whoozits… and it has a decidedly different take on the whole mercy thing. But it tells a similar story, of a small unit of soldiers carrying out a dangerous Allied mission behind German lines during World War II in the wake of a POW massacre.

Allred as Deacon Greer in Saints and SoldiersIn his feature film debut, Canadian native Ryan Little pulls a cinematic rabbit out of his hat, taking advantage of every ounce of “re-enactor” muscle that Utah could muster, and tells a compelling story in fine, professional fashion. Performances are taut, and Little finds a great hero in Corbin Allred’s “Deacon” Greer. He’s not the leader of this band of brothers, but he is their anchor. The film this most reminded my of is Rachid Bouchareb’s Oscar-nominated Days of Glory. It’s no surprise that it won scads of awards on the festival circuit.

What’s especially nice is that Little’s Latter Day Saints background lends this production a moral dimension (amidst all the squibs and flashpots) that Spielberg has never come close to mustering outside Schindler’s List. The central character of “Deacon” is highly convincing, given the LDS mission-field experiences of the director and several cast/crew members.

At the crux of the plot is that same dilemma as in Ryan: Do you show mercy to your enemies? Little’s film doesn’t treat that question in a perfunctory manner, on either end of the spectrum… though, naturally, it just isn’t possible to read this as a “shoot the bastards” tract.

If Little represents the future of LDS filmmaking (two sequels to this film have already been shot), I’m all for it. (And just to be clear, I’m not LDS!) But this is real cinema with a clear spiritual dimension… and I’m all in favor of that.

Saints and Soldiers is now included with Amazon Prime.