The highest grossing Russian film of all time replays one of the bloodiest chapters of the Second World War through the eyes of German and Soviet soldiers involved in the stand-off.
Stalingrad is the first project of its kind shot using IMAX 3D technology and Fedor Bondarchuk’s epic certainly looks spectacular in the eye-popping format.
Audiences get plenty of bang for their buck and eye strain is minimal, despite a running time that exceeds two hours.
Scriptwriters Sergey Snezhkin and Ilya Tilkin choose a clumsy framing device: the efforts of a Russian crew to rescue five German teenagers from the rubble of the 2011 earthquake in Tohuku, Japan.
As the youngsters lay gasping for oxygen, one Russian rescue worker distracts the quintet with his remarkable family history, harking back to September 1942.
‘I had five fathers. They’re all dead,’ he claims.
Captain Gromov (Petr Fedorov) leads a small troop of soldiers against the Germans, taking buildings one at a time.
The men include sniper Chvanov (Dmitry Lisenkov), radio operator Sergey (Sergey Bondarchuk).
Having stormed one building, Gromov and four surviving soldiers discover a terrified 18-year-old woman called Katya (Mariya Smolnikova).
Her humanity touches the military men and they become her protectors, which poses a problem for Gromov.
‘They’re not fighting for their country, they’re fighting for you,’ the Captain warns Katya.
However, his own feelings cloud his judgement even as the German troops begin to swarm.
Stalingrad is an unapologetically patriotic spin on history that papers over the cracks of a lightweight script with stunning visuals, stirring performances and Angelo Badalamenti’s heart-tugging score.
Bondarchuk’s directorial brio holds our interest rather than the simplistic narrative.
Digitally enhanced skirmishes between German and Soviet troops look stunning, bringing home some of the sound and fury of that ill-fated autumn.