Stalingrad (2013)

Written for RAF News Feb 2014

Russia’s first Imax film explores one of the bloodiest battles in history that marked a major turning point in World War II against Nazi Germany. We follow a band of Soviet soldiers as they attempt to defend a devastated building from attack along with it’s last inhabitant: a young Russian woman who refuses to leave – this is her home.

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The 3D technology and CGI is at its best when revealing the scale of chaos that engulfs Stalingrad, but it is soon honed in to focus on this group of soldiers and their relationship with Katya (Maria Smolnikova). This frail woman and the building she lives in will become a symbol of what the Russian forces are fighting for.

Most of the film is spent in anticipation of battle with the soldiers looking out through the sights of their rifles from this new command post, and yet there is little strategy devised by the group – at one point even coming down to the flip of a coin. The battle sequences are surprisingly scarce and over-the-top; depicting the close combat fighting that is characteristic of Stalingrad through stylised slow motion that draws inspiration from Zack Snyder’s 300.

Confined mostly to this building the 3D element of the film quickly becomes redundant despite the stated intention to involve the viewer in the emotional drama. The most interesting thread in Stalingrad is the humanised depiction of Captain Kahn (Thomas Kretschman), the Nazi officer who leads the attacks on the building. But where this one cliché is averted others are simply reinstated. Women and children become bargaining chips to be traded for emotional investment.

The jump from stylised violence to drama seems to detract from both styles as one is left wondering how serious to take the film. Stalingrad is a film that features impressive use of 3D and CGI during battle sequences, but the drama that takes focus for the majority of the film is slow and unmoving and not improved by 3D.

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