"Saints and Soldiers" is a gripping account of four soldiers who escape the brutal Malmedy Massacre in December, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge. They are behind enemy lines, sleepless, hungry, and just trying to survive, when they find a downed British flight sergeant, whose mission is to reach allied troops with important coded information, so together they make the arduous and dangerous journey with that end in mind.
The plot is a compilation of true stories, and even the one that seems improbable, the meeting of the American and German soldiers who were friends before the war, was taken from a real event.
This film puts a human face on the horror of war. We get to know these men, their fears and their bravery, and they are characters who stay with you long after the film is over. Made on a tiny budget of under $ 1,000,000 in less than a month, with a cast of unknown actors, this film has won numerous awards, and deservedly so. Shot on location in Utah, which substitutes for the Ardennes forest, director Ryan Little was also the cinematographer, and has done a superb job with both tasks.
The "extras" used in the massacre scene were "re-enactors," who came from all over the country at their own expense to take part in this film, and memorialize this little known part of WWII history, and it is an amazing opening sequence that sets the mood for the film. Also enhancing the atmosphere is the subtle, lovely soundtrack by J. Bateman and Bart Henderson.
The ensemble cast is excellent, with the most memorable character being "Deacon," played with depth and emotion by Corbin Allred, who captures the innocence of the part. The other marvelous performances are by Alexander Niver Polinsky as Gould, Kirby Heyborne as Flight Sergeant Winley, Lawrence Bagby as Kendrick, Peter Asle Holden as Gunderson, and Ethan Vincent as Rudi.
The DVD extras are fascinating, and give us a glimpse into how this film was ingeniously made on so little money. The director and producers were exceedingly resourceful, and are interviewed in "The Making of Saints and Soldiers," as well as the writers of the terrific script, Geoffrey Panos and Matt Whittaker. Watching the film with their commentary is also interesting and adds to the appreciation of what they call "The little film that could."
This is a beautiful, intimate war film, a small gem not to be missed. Total running time is 90 minutes.