It is 1941 and World War II rages on, the Nazis succeeded in taking over half of Europe and part of Russia until they reached Leningrad. Hitler fails to take Leningrad after a three-month-long offensive in 1941. Hitler realizes that Leningrad could not be taken by force and now he will surround the city and starve three million people to death. In the midst of this horrific siege, a young English journalist, Kate Davis finds herself among surviving Russians within the famished city of Leningrad.
Leningrad is the former name of Saint Petersburg in Russia. It was captured in September 1941 by Germany. Its political status as the former capital of Russia made it a key target of Germany’s Adolf Hitler. This location was also regarded as an important military target because it housed many arms factories. What resulted was a siege which lasted for over 850 days, making it one of the longest and most destructive in history. Oh, and there were over 4,500,000 casualties.
But what impact does it have on people like us who live on this part of the world, of which majority do not know about the history of countries which are in places far, far away? Not much really, until the day movies like this fall onto our laps. They serve an important role to inform us about important events in history. It helps if the production features a heart wrenching story (shouldn’t be too difficult for a war genre drama), explosions (this is almost a prerequisite for war movies) and lots of opportunities for mentions of real life events which took place many, many years ago.
In this Alexander Buravsky directed picture, the protagonists in the limelight are two women who are caught in one of the most intensive battles which happened during World War II. One is a foreign journalist (Mira Sorvino) who is presumed dead and left in the city of Leningrad. The other is a police officer (Olga Sutulova) who lends her hand to this helpless journalist. Together, they fight all odds and overcome obstacles, while developing a friendship which neither will forget in such times of difficulty.
The 106 minute movie opens with an impressive battle to set the mood. We see massive explosions, remarkable location sets and intensive exchange of human emotions amidst the chaos. From there on, we are introduced to the two female protagonists, who could have been conveniently stereotyped as two timidly girls depending on each other for security. However, we get a decent comradeship which complements the setting of the movie nicely. Sutulova outshines Sorvino by a little (the reason may be due to our familiarity with the American actress’ previous inconsequential performances in other movies), but both do a decent job in keeping the audiences engaged throughout. Supporting characters played by Gabriel Byrne (Assault on Precinct 13) and other lesser known German actors like Armin Mueller-Stahl and Alexander Abdulov add weight to the film with their authentic performances.
The movie does break any new ground in terms of the war genre, as the plot develops at a predictable pace which has viewers fully aware of how the story will proceed. But thanks to its high production values which exudes sincerity and honesty, audiences would feel that the filmmakers really do want to tell a story, especially to audiences in this part of the world who may not be aware of the impact it had on history.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
The movie’s visual transfer is fine, and is presented in its original Russian and English soundtracks.
by John Li
Posted on 12 February 2010