If 300 was a World War II movie, you would basically get Stalingrad. Currently known as the highest grossing Russian film of all time, Stalingrad is not exactly a great in-depth look at the bloodiest battle in WWII history, but it does have enough in the way of production values and stylish visuals to make it an engaging experience (especially in 3D) that happens to have a fairly traditional romance story to make it epic for all audiences. If you want a more direct approach to the story behind the battle of Stalingrad, this film won’t do much for you, but if you want a technically proficient 3D action flick, Stalingrad is an entertaining experience.
Set in 1942, the film surrounds a band of Russian soldiers who are fighting to hold a strategic building in their devastated city against the German army. In the process of holding this location, the men become attached to a Russian woman who has been living there. There is an nontraditional aspect to this romance, but it mainly amounts to good men fighting for what they believe in, emblemized by the woman they want to keep out of harm’s way and out of the grasp of a ruthless enemy.
Filmed in 3D, the story is what it is, but Stalingrad is a film that is all about style. Sure, I can tell there was effort made to develop a story people can get behind, with characters on both sides designed to gain a certain level of sympathy, but it is not all that compelling compared to the images such as flaming soldiers rising out of the smoke and shooting at the enemy or the way tanks play their role in this film. Stalingrad wants to engage its viewers by way of the elaborate filmmaking done to throw you into a war zone, using the latest and greatest technology fit for an IMAX screen.
Director Fedor Bondarchuk was apparently very involved in rewriting the screenplay and while I assume that meant contributing to how the action scenes would play out, the violence never feels excessive in an ugly or non-pleasing way. For the most part, the action is actually grounded in a level of reality that separates it from a film like 300, but its stylized nature certainly allows the film to look and feel gritty, without actually dwelling on how dour the situation really is.
Stalingrad is a fairly dark war drama, but it does not feel like a bummer of a film to watch. It is fairly exciting in many instances and at least has some fun allowing the various characters different sorts of interaction with each other. It is certainly not a joke-heavy affair, with maybe 3 actual laughs in the movie, but given that it’s a film about the bloodiest battle of WWII, there are many ways in which this movie could have really darkened its mood.
I can’t emphasize the style enough by the way, as the film, while rooted in grim circumstances, is pretty gorgeous to look at. Moments of digital blood don’t standout too much and the more sweeping shots do a lot of justice to adding to the stakes of the film. Still, the story only takes things to a certain level, given how perfunctory it ends up seeming. But, if you want a solid 3D war movie, Stalingrad provides plenty to enjoy.
Encoding: MPEG-4 MVC Encoded 3D
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Clarity/Detail: The 2D presentation of this film is fantastic and I can leave it at that. The 3D presentation of this film is pretty solid as well. You get the sense that plenty of effort was done to acknowledge the use of depth during the filmmaking, which comes through nice and clear on this Blu-ray. While not a gimmick-heavy use of the format, the image is always clear, especially given the grim and dark nature of the film overall, combined with the darkening of the 3D glasses. It looks nice and clear in either format and is well worth experiencing in 3D.
Depth: While certainly apparent, the film never tries to throw 3D objects in your face, which is not a bad thing. The 3D effect supplies just the right level of depth that this film needs, without feeling too over-the-top. Maybe there would be even more fun to be had, were the film to really embrace this aspect, but it looks fine for what it is.
Black Levels: Perfectly saturated throughout. There is a nice level of shading for all the blacks and none of the detail is lost.
Color Reproduction: The palette is pretty grey, with some neat flame-related highlights, but consistently great.
Flesh Tones: Lots of great details to be found in the grizzled faces of these soldiers.
Audio Format(s): Russian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Dynamics: The aggressive audio work done on this film is perfectly suited for Blu-ray, which takes all the sounds, be it gunfire, dialogue, chaotic background noises, explosions, etc. and does a wonderful job of providing balance throughout.
Low Frequency Extension: This film will do a great job playing with your subwoofer, as it has plenty of sound effects that call for an extra kick.
Surround Sound Presentation: All channels are accounted for here and they are all very well utilized.
Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clean, clear and crisp, when people aren’t shooting at each other.
Not a ton here and the features are weirdly spread across both discs available in this package. A shame, as some insight into the actual battle or more about the making of Russia’s biggest film ever would have been nice.
- The Making of Stalingrad – At just over 11 minutes, you get a decent overview, but nothing all that exciting, compared to what a longer featurette could have provided.
- Stereoscopic Stalingrad – While this feature is available on the 3D disc, it is strangely presented in 2D. Still, there is a little perspective added to the filmmaking process, when it comes to shooting in 3D, which is an interesting watch at just over 5 minutes.
- Trailers and 3D Trailers
- UltraViolet Copy of the Film.
Stalingrad provides plenty of entertainment for those not looking for anything with too much depth. An ironic statement, because the 3D featured in this film does a fine job of amplifying the stylized nature of the action, even though the story is nothing to write home about. That said, this Blu-ray package looks great, whether you watch the 2D or the 3D disc. I only wish there were more features to check out. An entertaining enough war movie experience.