Rating: 2 Stars out of 5
What's tragic is that everything the first movie got right, Saints and Soldiers, the second movie got wrong.
The first movie, which came out in 2003, was miraculously filmed entirely in Utah and under a million dollars (yet it looks like a major motion picture.) From beginning to end the WWII epic has non-stop action and heartfelt moments. The characters are strong and the story is focused. Definitely a must see with a strong 4.5 out of 5 star rating.
The followup movie, Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed, is overwhelmingly confused.
The exposition fell flat, and there was no real setup for how our cast of characters end up in enemy territory. Yes, there is an opening scene involving the Germans, but it only connects when you listen intently to a small bit of dialogue somewhere in the middle of the movie. (Since they choose to begin the movie this way, the main character should have been either the central German character, don't know his name, or the French resistant girl, Emilie.) Then we are suddenly shown a bunch of people jumping out of airplanes. If you go to the films website you learn this is the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team. They volunteered to land in enemy territory, with a chance of no backup, to help the French Allied forces. But there was no setup to this. You get the gist gradually as the film progresses. If I would have known the risk of their mission at the start, and the purpose of what they were doing, I would have been far more engaged in the plot then I was.
Another major fault of the film is a lack of a main character. Since this is a Saints and Soldiers film, it's safe to assume Jones, played by David Nibley, a man strong in the Catholic faith, is the central character. He gets a lot of flashback time after all, only problem is a couple other characters received a lot of flashback time as well. Instead of a main character with the support of a strong cast, we get a bunch of characters vying for our attention. The result? A huge mess with the lack of a focused story.
As much as I enjoyed Corbin Allred as 'Deacon' in the first movie, it was a mistake to bring him back and have him portray an entirely new character. Watching the trailer as many times as I did, I assumed Corbin was reprising his character. Airborne Creed is a prequel to Saints and Soldiers, not a sequel, and Deacon could have been brought back. Instead of taking advantage of a great opportunity, the writers choose instead to leave me questioning who Corbin's new character is, and that caused some distraction.
One of the brilliant aspects of the first movie is the ambiguity of the Main character, Deacon's, religion. You assume he's LDS, with a fair amount of clues leading to the fact, but this is only confirmed in the DVD commentary track. The first movie tackled brilliantly the psychological hardships of war, questioning morality and what truly makes someone an enemy. This new film tried to do the same, but did not succeed.
What's truly sad is that a lot of these problems could have been fixed in the script writing phase of pre-production. This could have been a great film.