Director/cinematographer Vilsmaier's WWII chronicle is a convincingly hard-edged movie, contextualising subtitles to the fore, detailing the most fateful hours of the European conflict. But, impressive as a monument of reconstruction, the film lacks the extra emotive dimension which would fulfil its humanist aspirations. Instead, surrounded by production values which suggest the Russian city has been demolished anew, the sentiments are very much of the war-is-hell and all-officers-are-bastards school, as a group of German soldiers is whittled away one by one during the ill-fated 1942 Siege of Stalingrad. With efficient performances that leave the big statements to the action set-pieces and a screenplay which merely hints at exorcising Nazi culpability in a single evasive exchange, the film's enveloping veracity is its most striking aspect. You'll certainly feel you've been to the Russian front - a fact which, ironically perhaps, may endear the film more to genre buffs and Sven Hassel readers than the youthful generation for whom the monolithic display of carnage is obviously intended as a bitter warning.
Cast and crew