At Christmastime, as the war is winding down, a group of young American soldiers encounter a German platoon who want to surrender rather than continue fighting.

Date: 1992
Director: Keith Gordon
Writer: William Wharton, Keith Gordon
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise, Frank Whaley, Arye Gross, Peter Berg, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley
Runtime: 1:47:59

Jeff’s Review:
Four and a half stars

This a little movie that deserves way more attention than it ever got. It’s smart, insightful, and a visual treat. The film deals with a small band of men who, in the dying days of the war, come across a small group of Germans who are more interested in celebrating Christmas and going home than they are in fighting, and our heroes need to figure out how to deal with them, their own people and their command. It’s a smart war movie that doesn’t glorify or fixate on war. It has violence, but violence it part of the story. Nothing is glorified, everything has consequences. It’s a movie that has a lot of humanity, something that seems out of place in most war movies, but probably not in one set at Christmas.

A Midnight Clear is just simply a beautiful film. Even without sound, it would be worth your time to watch it. You’ll see from the screencaps below, that the scenery, and the cinematography are just gorgeous. I fell in love with the film watching it on VHS, and if the visuals strike you on VHS, Blu-Ray should be a treat, and they are, but they were also quite the disappointment. I waited quite a while for the Blu-Ray to come out, and when they did, the copy I saw wasn’t the correct aspect ratio. Well it was, but it wasn’t the whole aspect ratio… Sure, it was widescreen, but it seemed more like a crop of the pan and scan version (for the most part) of the VHS tape. I did some more looking and the director even went on saying it was finally being released the way he’d intended. But as you can see below, it’s missing a big piece of the frame. I’m not feeling ripped off about missing some pixels, but any decent photographer knows, how you crop your shot is crucial. And a lot of the Blu-ray shots were immediately recognizable as crops (Hints of claustrophobia as everything is just too full in the screen, where there should have been room, lopped off to make sure the aspect ratio sounded right…). Seeing these magnificent shots being mangled repeatedly breaks my heart. Is there a definitive release out there with the original widescreen crop? I don’t know. I’d love to know (if you know, please share that info in the comments), but I’ve bought a number of copies already and I’m a little gunshy to buy again without knowing for sure. And you’d be surprised how difficult it is to be sure before you put down your money. I just hope a decent version exists somewhere. These scenes deserve to be seen as they were filmed…

A Midnight Clear (Original DVD release)

A Midnight Clear (Original DVD release, Full Screen)

Not bad, not bad. Not great. Slightly elongated vertically, definitely darker and murkier.

A Midnight Clear (Blu-Ray release)

A Midnight Clear (Blu-Ray release)

Better picture, better colour, better look, but a lot of cropping.

A Midnight Clear (DVD vs Blu-ray)

A Midnight Clear (DVD vs Blu-ray)

The Blu-ray adds some on the sides, loses some on the top and bottom, tilts the image a bit, oddly enough (or untilts it, who knows), and loses the stretch of the original DVD. But clearly, the composition is different, forced to fit the widescreen vision without the original cinematic version. I don’t have the answer, I don’t know why it’s been so hard to restore this movie to it’s original glory, but if it hasn’t been, it’s a real shame. If anyone knows that there’s a real widescreen version, true to the filmed version, please let me know. I really would love to own it…

Regardless of the aspect and crop, it’s still beautiful, I just want the best beautiful. But beautiful cropped is still worth checking out. Discover this little gem of a film and tell your friends about it.