A Midnight Clear - Blu-ray Review

'a narrative poem to the various evils of war'

You do get the impression with Keith Gordon's A Midnight Clear, out of print in the UK until the impending arrival of this rather lovely 20th Anniversary Edition, that it was a film somewhat ahead of its time; a post-modern war film some six years before Terrence Malick blew that sub-genre out of the water with The Thin Red Line in 1998.

Gordon's film is an 'ideas' movie, a gently told portrayal of war and its evils showing parallels of camaraderie with 2005's Joyeux Noel, amongst others. This isn't the pomp and rah-rah invading of Private Ryan's beach landings, nor quite is it the abstract art of Malick's film. It's really somewhere in between, a narrative poem to the various evils of war.

Like most films with ideas there's more considered here than just war too. It's notable that the small platoon which forms the focus of the narrative is lacking a leader. It has a 'Mother' (Gary Sinise), a 'Father' (Frank Whaley), a man who, at one point, pretends to be the leader (Peter Berg), a man who is accepted as the most likely leader (Kevin Dillon) and the man who technically is the leader but never gets round to sewing his stripes on (Ethan Hawke). The plan, such as it is, that forms the crux of the film is dreamt up by none of these men but instead by sixth platoon member, Shutzer (Arye Gross).

It's perhaps an ornate way to say something about leadership, its lack of clarity - midnights are rarely clear - but there's also something there about the family unit too; significantly Sinise and Whaley, Mother and Father, come to play a key part as Gordon's film morphs to inevitable tragedy. Its failings, though somewhat minor, can perhaps be traced back to an over-reliance on the prose of William Wharton's source material and to the occasional arrival of ultimate superior, John C. McGinley, who steps on to the wrong side of parody. The budget too, clearly hampers early interactions with the Germans, which could have, and should have, been much more haunting.

A Midnight Clear is released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on Monday 16th April.

Look further...

'tells a wartime yarn that's quietly, often lyrically, winning' - The Washington Post


  1. Great review! I've always felt like this movie falls into the "unjustly ignored" category. Yeah, it has some issues. But the over all arc of the story...and the message and imagery, stuck with me for years. It would be nice to see a new audience discover it on Blu.

    1. Thanks Dusty! It's definitely been unjustly ignored. There's no reason whatsoever why it should have been out of print in the UK for so long - the cast alone should have guaranteed some people checking it out over the last twenty years. Definitely a film worth seeing, especially for those interested in what people have tried to do with the War genre.

  2. The mention of Terrence Malick reminds me that I'm still behind on most of his work.

    1. I like The Thin Red Line rather a lot but yes, I too am missing several of his back catalogue.