For American audiences who may not be familiar with the USSR’s side of World War II, it may help to think of 3D war/romance epic Stalingrad—which begins its weeklong limited run on Boston IMAX screens tonight—as the Russian equivalent of Pearl Harbor for the way they both twist tales of foreign aggression and the heroics they inspired into overwrought scenes of scream-shooting and tangential love stories.
But if the flaws of Pearl Harbor were innumerable, those of Stalingrad can be counted on one hand: the 3D is a gimmick, a few of the characters are straw men, and it has the souls of two entirely separate films living inside it. Other than that, it’s not awful. On the one hand is an intimate story of Russian soldiers camping out in a woman’s house during the Battle of Stalingrad, and a German captain who is a dedicated soldier who has difficulty recognizing how the war has trapped him in the Nazi cause. On the other are battle scenes involving (literally) flaming soldiers bayoneting dudes in a trench, leap-knifing across ditches, and screaming at no one in particular while firing a machine gun out of a window.
Calling the film Stalingrad and filming in IMAX 3D are distractions from a narrative that would have fit right in with classic Russian WWII films like Two Soldiers or The Cranes are Flying. Meanwhile, the battle scenes feel ripped from an outright propaganda film along the lines of 300. Our advice is to check out Stalingrad if you’re curious how the other side views itself using American cinematic tropes, but only as a starting-off point to other, better Russian war films.
STALINGRAD | R | IN SELECT IMAX THEATERS