“Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed” is a Mollywood movie that is the sequel to “Saints and Soldiers”. Mollywood movies are movies made for Mormon audiences and/or by Mormon directors. In this case, both apply. The director is Ryan Little who directed all three in the “Saints and Soldiers” trilogy. His war movies are noted for not being overly religious and having a theme of not all religious soldiers are saints and not all Nazis are sinners. This second installment in the series is not a sequel to the first. It is set during Operation Dragoon, which was the Anglo-American invasion of Southern France in WWII.
The movie opens by introducing us to a German officer named Neumann (Lincoln Hoppe). He goes from writing a heart-felt letter home to his wife and kids to ordering the execution of two French Resistance fighters. Meanwhile, members of the 517th Regimental Combat Team land behind enemy lines in Provence. (Little is incapable of showing men parachuting.) Corporal Curtis (Jason Wade) gets captured by Germans using a German shepherd, naturally. Curtis is rescued by T5 Rossi (Corbin Allred from the first “Saints and Soldiers”). He proceeds to kill all the Germans by himself. As usual in a war movie, there are no wounded because that complicates matters. War movies have a much higher mortality rate than real war. The duo becomes a trio when they hook up with Sgt. Jones. They recite the Airborne Creed (even though it was not created until 1946). They sit around chatting for a long time even though they are supposed to be attempting to link up with their unit eight miles away. No rush, there’s just a war on. It’s time for back-stories via flashbacks. Rossi is torn by the death of his best friend. Curtis remembers his girl-friend. Jones is the religious one and flashes back to telling his minister-father about his decision to join the Army, but not as a chaplain.
|Saints and Soldiers: Walking and Talking|
They encounter Neumann and the almost-chaplain Jones apparently executes him. They next run into a comely French sniper-lass named Emilie (Virginie Fourtina Anderson) who recruits them to help rescue some Resistance captives. More walking and talking. They encounter two Americans in a jeep. One of them uses the phrase “short man on the totem pole”. What an odd thing for an American to say! While that faux slang is hanging in the air, Emilie and Rossi have a shooting contest. I kid you not. This builds to a tussle with a German tank and half-track and the resurrection of a bad German. There is a bonding scene involving a wounded paratrooper and a certain war criminal. “I’m supposed to hate you”, but as a Mormon I can see the good in you. There is also a reunion between a marksman and a markswoman.
|There's always time for a shooting match|
The curse of the sequel. “Saints and Soldiers” was a major surprise and did very well on the film festival circuit. It has been the most successful Mollywood crossover. Most of those films have had an appeal limited only to Mormon audiences and have been savaged by critics. I was prepared for “Airborne Creed” to be a lesser movie than its predecessor, but I was not prepared for it to suck. It is, in fact, a major misfire by Little. The main problem is that it is boring. There is way too much walking and talking. There is no sense of urgency for these dudes. You would think that reuniting with the main force would be a higher priority for three paratroopers trapped behind enemy lines. Throwing in the Resistance subplot should have juiced the narrative, but once Emilie is introduced the movie slumps back into its leisurely pace. The acting is what you would expect from a low budget film – sincere, but pedestrian. The dialogue is blah, but at least there is little sermonizing. Like “Saints and Soldiers”, the movie is not overtly religious. You would not know it was produced by Mormons unless you read about this (or had me tell you this). The flashbacks are thankfully brief and do their character development efficiently, but the actions and motivations of the three paratroopers have little relation to their prior experiences. Jones, in particular, seems to be having no second thoughts about abandoning his religious upbringing. However, his supposed execution of Neumann is hardly believable and the off camera gun shot is not going to fool anyone. (Sorry, spoiler alert!) The movie is full of clichés and is very predictable. There is little action and there is a lack of suspense.
|Mormons commit atrocities too|
“Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed” is hard to fault. I have to give it credit for attempting to bring some recognition to the paratroopers who participated in the overlooked Operation Dragoon. A better movie would have informed the audience that members of the 517th Regimental Combat Team and the other airborne units did a great job in the operation. Although most landed far from their designated landing zones, they achieved all their objectives in the first 48 hours. This included ambushing German convoys, cutting enemy communications, and preventing reinforcement from reaching the beachhead. You get no impression of this from the movie. Actually, the unintended laughable moments do a disservice to the men who served. So fault I must. This is a bad movie and unpardonably boring. Sincerity does not trump tediousness.
GRADE = F