In this screen adaptation of William Wharton's 1982 novel, writer and director Keith Gordon reveals war to be a dirty trickster. Knott (Ethan Hawke), the youthful narrator, leads his five-man intelligence unit into the Ardennes forest in December 1944. They have orders to set up an observation post in a deserted chateau. To insulate themselves against the insanity of combat, they have created a family with a "Father" (Frank Whaley), a former seminarian, and a "Mother" (Gary Sinise), a worrier they try to protect from further battle fatigue. They have games to keep themselves occupied as well as a "no obscenity" rule.
Much to the family's surprise, the German soldiers in the area have also lost their zest for fighting. They throw snowballs at the Americans rather than grenades and at Christmas sing carols in front of a decorated tree. They even have a plan that will enable them to surrender with dignity. But the winds of war often blow strange as demonstrated in the final scenes.
The religious imagery in this movie is incredibly poignant. A Midnight Clear delves into the strain of war on the human spirit and our dependency upon community in the face of senseless death.