The battle for Stalingrad remains the bloodiest conflict in human history: more than 850,000 people lost their lives over five months of dogged, street-to-street fighting in 1942 and 1943. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, film producers intermittently insist on attempting to shoehorn all this blood and fury into a populist, triumphal two-hour multiplex adventure. This latest Russian-language effort may introduce new elements – 3D, digital effects, a pointless framing device – but the key components remain unchanged: mud, brutality, starvation, sacrifice, misery, loss and grief.
This ‘Stalingrad’ focuses on five Russian soldiers holed up in a bombed-out house during a German air raid. Taking the place’s owner, shellshocked Masha (Yanina Studilina), under their collective wing, these mismatched heroes struggle to beat back the Nazi advance. There are some impressive moments: the oversaturated visuals frazzle the retinas, and there are some memorable explosions. But when the best one can say about a movie is that it’s pyrotechnically impressive, something important is missing. In this case it’s tension, originality and memorable characters.