Set in the Ardennes Forest during Christmas 1944, A Midnight Clear
is one of those films that starts out so strong that you almost want to weep when it begins to fall apart (which, in this case, is about 90 minutes into the movie). Based on an actual occurrence, the film places a battle-weary squad of young GIs in the surreal, snowbound French-German border. They're tired and sick to death of all the killing they've seen; as squad leader Hawke puts it, even the beautiful Ardennes remains unnoticed by the men, fatigued as they are. Stationed in an abandoned French villa with orders to keep watch for possible German troop movements, the men encounter an increasingly bizarre series of unexplained events: a pair of German and American corpses, standing in the middle of a road, locked in a tender, frozen embrace. Phantom Germans in the night, bidding their American counterparts to “sleep well.” A midnight skirmish with the enemy that ends not with the reedy whine of bullets and staccato muzzle flashes, but instead with incoming snowballs and unseen laughter. All of this and more lead the GIs to the inevitable conclusion that this particular group of the Fuhrer's army may be just as sick of all the fighting as they are, and, when the two groups finally come face to face, Uncle Sam's best are shocked to suddenly realize that the enemy they've been so scared of is nothing more terrifying than old men and little boys. To say much more would be saying too much, I think. War is still hell, though, and so when the worst that can happen does, it comes as little surprise. Unfortunately, three-quarters of the way through what was shaping up to be one heck of a unique take on The Big One and the nature of war in general, it all falls apart. There are whole segments in A Midnight Clear
that have little or no use here and scream of padding, which is really too bad. Having made brilliant use of Utah's very Ardennes-like scenery and after positing so many interesting questions regarding the politics of war and the question of “The Enemy,” it's a shame that this film sputters out as badly as it does.