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Stalingrad (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 17, 2014 by  



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“Stalingrad” comes up short in becoming a great war film but it does have high marks on Blu-ray for its magnificent 3D, fantastic picture quality and immersive soundtrack.  Definitely recommended!

Image are courtesy of © 2013 VTB Bank, VGTRK, Telecompanya, Non-Stop Production and Art Pictures Studio. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Stalingrad

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 131 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, Russian, English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (for Sequences of Violence)

RELEASE DATE: May 13, 2014

Directed by Fedor Bondarchuk

Written by Sergey Snezhkin

Produced by Sergey Melkumov, Alexander Rodnyansky, Dmitriy Rudovskiy

3D Producer: Steve Shklair

Music by Angelo Badalamenti

Cinematography by Maksi Osadchiy-Korytkovskiy

Edited by Igor Litoninskiy

Art Directionb y Sergei Ivanov

Starring:

Mariya Smolnikova as Katya

Yanina Studilina as Masha

Pyotr Fyodorov as Kapitan Gromov

Thomas Kretschmann as Kapitan Kan

Sergey Bondarchuk as Sergey Astakhov

Dmitriy Lysenkov as Chvanov

Andrey Smolyakov as Polyakov

A band of determined Russian soldiers fight to hold a strategic building in their devastated city against a ruthless German army, and in the process become deeply connected to a Russian woman who has been living there. In Stalingrad, directed by Fedor Bondarchuk, the scale of the battle contrasts dramatically with the human drama of the Russian soldiers, the few remaining civilians and their invaders into Stalingrad.

During World War II, what historians would call the turning of the tide was the “Battle of Stalingrad”.  One of the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare.

For seven months, Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city and in the end, despite heavy military and civilian casualties, Nazi Germany would be the losers and would show the world that Hitler and the Nazi’s were close to defeat.

While many books, documentaries and films were made about the Battle of Stalingrad, the 2013 film “Stalingrad” directed by Fedor Bondarchuk was the first Russian film to be produced with IMAX 3D and shot using 3ality Technica’s TS-5 and Stereoscopic Image Processor.

And now, “Stalingrad” will be released on Blu-ray 3D and 2D in May 2014.

“Stalingrad”begins with the tsunami/earthquake that devastated Japan.  Russian rescue crews arrive and find a group of Russians trapped under a building.  One of the rescuers tries to tell a girl, who is trapped with surviving members of her family to not use up the oxygen and keeps her thoughts busy by telling a story of how he was a man who had five fathers.  Possible or impossible?

The story then shifts back to World War II, a group of Soviet reconnaissance troops led by Gromov (portrayed by Pyotr Fyodorov) sent to the city of Stalingrad to prepare Soviet troops crossing the Volga River.  As the group which includes sniper Dmitriy Lysenkov (portrayed by Chavanov) and the rarely speaking Nikiforov (portrayed by Alexey Barabash) find a building, they come into fire with Nazi soldiers, including officer Haptmann Kahn (portrayed by Thomas Kretschmann) who escapes.

Inside the building, Gromov finds dead Russian soldiers but a few are found alive, Sergey Astakhov (portrayed by Sergey Bondarchuk Jr.), the one responsible for radio contact with headquarters.  And Polyakov “Angel” (portrayed by Andrey Smolyakov) along with a female civilian, Katya (portrayed by Maria Smolnikova), who’s family lived in the building.

When Gromov is able to contact headquarters, his mission is for him and his soldiers to occupy the building and make sure it is not occupied by the Nazi soldiers.

As more soldiers arrive at the building, down the street are the Nazi soldiers led by Oberstlieutnant Henze (portrayed by Heiner Lauterbach) who wants Kahn to do all he can to occupy the building.

But unbeknownst to Henze is that Kahn likes to gallivant into an area where Soviet civilians are staying and visit Masha (portrayed by Yanina Studilina), a woman that looks exactly like his dead wife.  Despite not understanding each other, Kahn wants to protect her from the war.  But because of her association with Kahn, Masha is treated as a fascist.

Meanwhile, at the building, all the men’s hopes are lifted thanks to Katya.  Katya laughs and talks to the men, gets them their water and develops a strong bond with them, which concerns Gromov, who fears that his men are not fighting for Russia but fighting for Katya.

But when Oberstleutnant Henze is desperate of capturing the building, he will do anything to weaken the resolve of the Russian soldiers, including killing innocent Russian civilians.

How will the Russian soldiers fare in the onslaught of Nazi Germany’s attacks near the building?

 

VIDEO:

“Stalingrad” is possibly one of the few live action 3D films that I have watched on Blu-ray which I feel confident in saying, it’s worth owning.

Shot entirely in 3D, not only is the film wonderful in terms of showcasing depth but there are a number of situations where you can see objects coming right at you.  From the flight of the bombing squadrons, the explosions and people fighting  right in front of you, it’s just an impressive looking film that gives Blu-ray 3D TV/player owners another film since “Avatar”, that manages to use the technology with efficacy.

As for the 2D version of the film, the cinematography by Maksim Osadchiy-Korytkovskiy is impressive.  But first, the direction by Fedor Bondarchuk should be mentioned.  The pacing of the film and the shots incorporated to the film is impressive.  The production/set design in recreating a decimated Stalingrad is also magnificently done and the fact that the film was created rather than utilizing all CG is very impressive.  And this leads to the wonderful cinematography of Osadchiy-Korytkovskiy, what he manages to capture on camera, from the devastation, the emotions on the people’s faces, the fighting/battles to just the chaotic moments of the film to its most tender moments, looks amazing on Blu-ray.

Picture quality is in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio) and no doubt, a gorgeous film on Blu-ray 3D and 2D.

AUDIO/INTERTITLES:

“Stalingrad” also gets high marks for its 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless soundtrack.  This is an immersive film that utilizes the surround channels, the rear surround channels and LFE.  Panning bullets, explosions galore, ambiance of the area, you name it, there is sound coming from all over the place.  And making you feel you are right there with the action.  While the film does come with an English and French dub, I watched the original soundtrack in Russian lossless and dialogue is crystal clear, along with the fantastic music by Angelo Badalamenti.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Stalingrad” comes with the following special feature:

  • The Making of Stalingrad – (11:34) Featuring the cast and crew discussing the making of “Stalingrad”.

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When it comes to war films, war aficionados and also film critics, tend to be more complimentary with films that focus on the men at war and the story of battles that were won, the lives that were lost and if anything, paying tribute to those who fought in the war.

In Russia, “Stalingrad” had its share of criticism, on one hand, giving the film recognition for its visuals and set design, while others criticizing the fact that the film has a romantic angle.

Like with any war film, you have those that focus solely on the war and those that focus on other areas of the war.  For the “Battle of Stalingrad”, there was the 1993 German film “Stalingrad” about a group of German soldiers and in 2001, a French-British film titled “Enemy at the Gates” focused on the exploits of a Russian sniper.

While a war film shot entirely in 3D, the film focuses on a core group who are protecting a building and wanting to protect a teenage girl that occupies that lives in the building, while the other story focuses on a German officer and a Russian woman that he forcibly becomes closer to, because she looks like his deceased wife.

The film manages to have elements of a war film in terms of brotherhood, men in battle and as Stalingrad was known about close counter battles, a lot of use with knives and if anything, capturing the bloody war but also how many civilians were killed.

As for the romantic element, I’m not sure if anyone should even call it a romantic element.  It’s about a group of men who see something pure, while everything around them is violent and impure.  She is their angel, she is the person that makes them feel life is worth living, no matter what hell hole they are in.  And I feel that because of Katya, her character brings out the characters hidden personalities.

That Gromov is not heartless, that Chavanov is not a jerk, that Nikiforov has a hidden talent, Polyakov has a soft heart and we learn more about these men because of her.

Granted, I can understand that with a title of “Stalingrad”, one might expect a Russian version of “Platoon” or “Saving Private Ryan”, something intense, real and showing us the grittiness of war with detail and ferocity. This may not be the great tribute to the heroes of Stalingrad but it does show the persistence and the never quitting attitude of Russian soldiers against Nazi Germans.

While I do give amazing credit for this films production/set design, its wonderful visuals in 3D and 2D, immersive soundtrack, musical score and its cast for a wonderful performance, the film does come short of being a great war film. With its cast of characters, it would have been best for these characters to discuss the pain they suffered in the war versus a narration.  The development of its characters would have been great than the focus of action and visual effects.

As for the Blu-ray, “Stalingrad” is one of the best Blu-ray 3D films that I have seen.  The amazing depth that the 3D version of the film offers is quite amazing and no doubt, for those who invested in the hardware to feature the technology, this film is a no-brainer to own.  As for the 2D version, picture quality is also fantastic and the lossless soundtrack is magnificent.  I wish there were more special features, but you do get the single “making of” featurette.

Overall, “Stalingrad” comes up short in becoming a great war film but it does have high marks on Blu-ray for its magnificent 3D, fantastic picture quality and immersive soundtrack.  Definitely recommended!

 






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