A few weeks ago, my wife, Patty, and I watched a fabulous movie, one that I’d really never heard of before. It’s called Saints and Soldiers, and it was made back in 2003. We rented it on Netflix because it sounded like a pretty good story. And it certainly is.
The movie, which is very well done and based on true events, hooks you from the first instant. It’s winter 1944. At the height of the Battle of the Bulge, near a Belgian village named Malmedy, a group of captured American GIs are being herded together by German SS troops—fanatical Nazis.
If you know anything about World War II, you’ll know that the Malmedy Massacre of American troops was one of the most infamous events of the war.
The movie follows the harrowing escape of four of the American GIs—who flee the massacre scene and try to find their way back through enemy lines. One is a tough Army sergeant, a natural leader. Another is a hard-bitten medic, who has had enough of the war, and enough of the Germans. Another is a Cajun country boy.
But the hero of the film is a young, quiet corporal. He’s an expert shot. His nickname is “Deacon,” because before the war he was a missionary living in—of all places—Berlin. But he is haunted by a horrible tragedy—an event that took place just a few weeks prior to the massacre.
Deacon’s struggle with the tragedy (I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot for you) provides the subtext for the film. He hasn’t slept for days, and as he and his comrades march through the snow, constantly on the alert for the enemy, he begins to hallucinate—endangering the lives of them all.
The medic, an avowed atheist, does his best to keep the young corporal from delirium—so he engages him in conversation. He targets the corporal’s faith, asking vexing questions about God’s existence in the face of inhumanity, of suffering, of young men bleeding to death far from home. The dialogue between Deacon and the atheist medic alone is worth the rental fee.