Saints and Soldiers (2003)

 

 

 

Director:     Ryan Little. 

Starring:     Corbin Allred (Corporal Nathan 'Deacon' Greer), Alexander Polinsky (Steven Gould), Kirby Heyborne (Flight Sergeant Oberon Winley), Larry Bagby (Private Shirl Kendrick), Peter Asle Holden (Gordon Gunderson), Ethan Vincent (Rudi), Melinda Renee (Catherine), Ruby Chase O'Neil(Sophie), Jeff Birk (Radio Announcer), Ben Gourley (Sgt. McKinley), Tane Williams (Injured One-Armed Soldier), Randy Beard (German Officer #1), Curt Dousett (German Soldier #1), Michael Buster (German Soldier #2), M. Casey Reeves (Weeping Soldier).

survivors of the "Malmedy Massacre" of American soldiers by the Germans

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Armed Forces Radio announces that the Allies have routed the attacking Germany army at the Ardennes Front. 

A road sign points to Malmedy (13 km) and another to St. Vith (8 km) in Belgium.  The frozen corpses of 70 G.I.s are found near the town of Malmedy.  Eisenhower vows that those responsible for the war crime will be hunted down after war's end. 

Three weeks earlier.  The Germans have taken more than 70 American soldiers prisoner.  They start removing the personal articles from the prisoners of war and drop them on the ground.  An American soldier panics and makes a run for it.  The potential escapee is shot in the back and then all hell breaks out.  An American takes a rifle away from one of the Germans and shoots a German soldier.  Then the Germans decide to kill all the Americans.  The Germans open up with all their fire power on the mostly unarmed Americans.  Then a German looks for any surviving Americans on the ground and shoots them in the head. 

But there are at least four survivors of the massacre. One is a medic named Steven Gould, who is a very non-enthusiastic soldier.  Then there is Sgt. Gordon Gunderson and Corporal Nathan "Deacon" Greer of the 101st airborne.  These men had run away at the first sound of the struggle.  They are joined a little later by Private Shirl Kendrick who managed somehow successfully to play dead.  There is a bit of friction between Gould and Deacon because Deacon hesitated to shoot a sadistic German soldier, even though Gould yelled at him repeatedly to shoot.  Deacon has the only rifle, a German weapon with only four bullets left.

The four survivors decide to lay low until the Allied troops push the Germans back and relieve them.  They come across an American Red Cross ambulance with its crew all killed by the Germans.  It looks like the Germans just stood them up and then mowed them down.  Deacon is send out on guard duty.  He seems nervous about something.  The men hide in a damaged part of a house. A German jeep pulls up to house and the men get out.  The Americans are able to hide themselves underneath the floor of the room.  The Germans set up their radio and have something to eat.  Deacon, who speaks German because he was a missionary in Berlin before the war, hears some talk about the Meuse River and a crashed airplane.  The Germans receive orders to move out and they leave.

The Americans start looking around the area for a crashed plane.  They find a pilot in his parachute dangling from a tree.  The pilot, armed with a pistol,  keeps warning them to stay away or he will shoot.  They free the pilot from his parachute harness, but then the man grabs one of the soldiers and puts his pistol to the American's head.  The guys tell the pilot that they are Americans, but the fellow demands that they prove it.  He starts asking them questions about the third and four presidents of the USA.  They answer these questions, but no one can remember the capital of Vermont.  So one of the American says that the last question is too hard.  They ask the pilot what is the capital, but he has no idea himself.  He realizes that he is talking to Americans and releases his hostage.  The pilot is British and his name is Flight Sergeant Oberon Winley.  He was out on a reconnaissance mission and saw the development of the German counter-offensive later known as the Battle of the Bulge.  He needs to get back to Manhay with his information about German troop deployment.  He tells the Americans that this is a major German offensive.  The Germans have punched through and it looks like they are going to try to cross the Meuse River and head on to take Leige. 

The group has 20 miles to travel to get to the Allied line.  They look at the pilot's maps and decide they can follow the railroad tracks and then with a few short cuts make it to the Allied lines before the Germans do.  They think this way they can save a lot of Allied troops. 

On guard duty Deacon had earlier seen a woman standing in the snow.  When he looked again she was gone.  Now once again there appears a civilian.  The back of a woman's head.  (I started to wonder if this was going to be a horror story.)  The survivors have about 12 more miles to get to the Allies.  Taking the point (ahead of the other men) Deacon has another vision, but this time of a number of women and children.  He panics and the other men have to grab him and hold him down.  At this point, medic Gould wants to know from Sgt. Gunderson what's Deacon's story.  The Sarge tells him that there was a German sniper on the upper floor of a building and Deacon was sent to take him out.  To make sure the bottom floor was clear, Deacon threw a hand grenade inside and then sprayed the smoke-filled room with rifle fire.  He then went in and killed the sniper.  When the smoke finally cleared he realized that he had killed two women and six children. He flipped out and hasn't been the same since. 

The men find a house and move into the bottom floor.  Sgt. Gunderson goes to check out the noises the men hear upstairs.  Sarge finds a French-speaking woman who threatens to kill him with a large kitchen knife.  She is determined to defend her daughter from what she thinks is a German soldier.  Sarge tries to calm her down, but she is wild with determination.  He puts the pilot's pistol down and indicates to her to do the same with her weapon.  And he finally says the magic word:  "American".  Then she is all smiles.  Her name is Catherine.  She and her daughter bring bread to the soldiers. 

Winley decides to try to walk the rest of the way to the Allied lines by himself.  Sgt. Gunderson tells him that he won't make it.  He will freeze to death in the cold and snow.  But he does not stop Winley from leaving. 

A German armored vehicle arrives at the house.  One of the two German soldiers tries to rape Catherine.  Deacon comes to her rescue by shooting and killing the would-be rapist.  The other German soldier makes a run for it.  Deacon fires at him, but somehow misses him even though he is an excellent marksman.  They go after him, but can't find him.  Gould accuses Deacon of deliberately missing the escaping soldier. But later the returning pilot Winley brings him in.  (He says he heard the shots and came running.)  Private Kendrick is a bit more blood-thirsty than the others and wants to kill the soldier and Gould agrees.  Sarge tells them that they don't shoot prisoners.  Deacon suddenly recognizes the man.  It's an old associate from Berlin named Rudolf Gertz.  The two men embrace, while the other soldiers stand around in shock.  Deacon tells his comrades that when he was in Berlin he stayed with Rudi and his family. 

The next day the Sarge wakes up and notices that Rudi is gone.   He demands to know where the prisoner is.  Gould accuses Deacon of letting the man go free. Sarge asks Gould who was on guard duty.  Gould has to admit that he fell asleep on duty.  Deacon then admits that he let Rudi go, but says that he let Rudi go in exchange for information about the Allied and German lines.  From that information he found out that a group of American soldiers are at Longin.   The group decides to walk the 6 km to the area.  They take a number of weapons, including grenades from the German armored vehicle. 

While walking, the men run into a group of Germans.  They decide to walk around them rather than attack.  But a isolate German soldier suddenly fires hitting and killing Sarge.  Deacon kills the German soldier.  He goes to check on Sarge and Gould tells him he is dead.  Deacon cries.  But soon other German soldiers arrive.  Winley is badly wounded.  Kendrick helps Winley move away from the fighting.  The survivors move out.  They find a place where Gould can remove the bullet from Winley with Deacon's help. 

A German soldier, taking a piss, sees them, warns his fellows and gets shot to death for his efforts.  The Allies have to make a fighting retreat.  The grenades really come in handy in the firefight.  Kendrick is shot and soon dies from his wounds.  Now only Gould, Deacon and the wounded Winley are left.  They are able to get away from the Germans.  Winley falls over a small cliff and into a stream with a waterfall.  The fellows look for him and find him.  While they are working on him, a German soldier discovers the three men.  But it turns out to be Rudi again.  Rudi tells Deacon a way to escape and then leaves.  Gould and Deacon strip the bodies of three dead German soldiers  They put two of the uniforms on themselves and then the third one on Winley.  They take a captured American jeep with a Nazi flag on the hood and ride to to a German encampment.  They are stopped, but Deacon asks for directions distracting the guard.  But when they take a different turn from the one the guard told them to take, the guard opens fire.  He is soon joined by other German soldiers. 

The Germans pursue the jeep.  The Yanks hear the fighting, but are confused by the Nazi flag on the hood of the jeep.  But seeing as how the Germans are trying to kill the three men in the jeep, one of the Americans figures out that the fellows in the jeep must be American.  The Americans start firing at the Germans chasing the jeep.  The jeep crashes.  Deacon tells Gould to take Winley and get to the American lines.  Gould is reluctant to leave, but Deacon insists.  Deacon holds the enemy off so the other two men can escape.  And once again he sees visions of his civilian victims.  A German sniper finally is able to shoot and kill Deacon. 

Gould and Winley reach the Americans, while the Americans force the Germans to retreat.  Winley is able to give his information on the counter-offensive to the Americans.  Gould goes to see Deacon's body.  He says:  "You saved my life."  Going back to work, Gould starts to administer medical aid to a wounded German soldier.  The Americans move out.

 

Good movie.  Not that much background historical information.  Nevertheless, an interesting story that kept my wife's and my attention.  At times I was so engrossed in the action that I forgot to keep taking notes for the write-up.  I had to watch those parts again to make sure I got the sequences right. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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