Time Out saysTarkovsky's first feature is in many ways an orthodox Russian film of its period. Ivan is a teenage Soviet spy on the German front in World War II who undertakes dangerous missions behind enemy lines, until the inevitable mission from which there is no return. Many of Tarkovsky's later images and themes are already present and correct: Ivan silently wading through still water, eerily immanent forestscapes, the poetry of forbidden zones, and life-and-death struggles played out in slow motion. But the glittering black-and-white camerawork has a florid, bravura quality that Tarkovsky later rejected, as if determined to invest this more or less familiar material with touches of 'visionary' beauty. The irony is that the generic storyline provides a much stronger foundation for his visual ambitions than do the religiose and feebly philosophical abstractions that ostensibly underpin the films from Solaris onwards. Tha aura of holiness around Ivan registers neither as religious bombast nor as patriotic myth-making, but rather as an awed respect for childhood mysteries. This is Tarkovsky before his peasant sentimentality and sense of self-importance got the better of him, and it still looks hugely impressive.