Midnight Clear, A1992

William Wharton's autobiographical novel of World War II becomes a moving portrait of war's madness in the microcosm of a small intelligence patrol on the German front in 1944. The unit, composed of high IQ soldiers, is sent to scout ahead. They discover a small platoon of Germans hiding in the forest, but these soldiers would rather fight with snowballs than guns and exchange Christmas presents instead of mortar fire. The young, rather unsoldierly Americans are offered the opportunity to "capture" the Germans without a fight--until a fatal misunderstanding plunges their efforts into tragedy. Director Keith Gordon, who also penned the screenplay, creates an unusually eloquent, offbeat platoon drama shot amidst the tranquil beauty of a snow-covered forest. His excellent cast includes future stars Ethan Hawke and Gary Sinise, with Frank Whaley, Kevin Dillon, Arye Gross, and Peter Berg rounding out the platoon. Though little seen upon its 1992 release, this moving drama received high praise for its vivid characters and delicately wrought imagery and remains one of the most powerful pacifist dramas of the post-war era. --Sean Axmaker

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