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3.7 out of 5 stars68
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 28 October 2014
The movie is surprisingly good. What's especially interesting about it, is that Germans are playing Germans, Russians are playing Russians and English are playing English, and so they speak clearly, with no accent.

The movie is quite deep. People making uneasy decisions, sacrificing their lives and lives of loved ones. The psychology behind the motives is so true, that it corrodes the filters between viewer and action. I haven't seen so immersive film for ages.

One thing that I didn't like - there is, in fact, not a single F-word in the whole film, spoken. But quite a few in subtitles. An example - when Russian officer is standing with grenade against the German tank. He is saying - "You didn't scare me". English translation - "F... you!". Basically, translation from both Russian and German is quite free.

A moment that amazed me was the episode with Russian actor Alexander Abdulov. He appeared in the film, smoking a cigarette. Nothing special, unless you know that he died a year before the release of the movie, from lung cancer. I know him from some other brilliant movies, like other Russian star actors who participated in this film, but since I didn't follow his filmography, I couldn't expect his appearance, and it was a light shock.

Speaking about shock, there is a lot of it, since siege of St. Petersburg (formerly known as Leningrad) took more lives than Hiroshima and Nagasaki together. Unfortunately, there was no fantasy in horrors you'll witness, but they all are rather psychological, with no gore. Some of them you won't see in other movies.

I highly recommend to view this whether or not you like the genre. Simply for educational purposes.
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on 19 March 2010
The plot was great, the special effects were good, the acting was good. The whole thing was let down by the post production. Much of the movie takes place outside and in the snow. Whoever decided to make the sub titles white wasn't thinking. Several scenes were completely wasted on me because I don't speak Russian and the sub titles disappeared into the background.
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Leningrad has got a raw deal from war movies in the past, partially because Stalin wasn't particularly fond of the city to begin with and didn't want people to be reminded of the grim realities of the 882-day siege that saw one and a half million die while he did little to relieve the city. Leningrad aka Attack on Leningrad is a fairly spectacular attempt to portray the brutal siege of the city that has the resources it needs but doesn't find a good enough script to really convey the horror of Hitler's attempt to exterminate by starvation. Scenes of air raids, food riots and people robbing and murdering for food are all too often used as linking footage as the film shifts its focus to Olga Sutulova's policewoman and Mira Sorvino's British journalist trapped in the city who, naturally, has a secret that sets the Communist Party after her blood. It's a surprisingly bold move to see the siege almost entirely through female eyes but even with some historical justification for her presence, Sorvino's character, like her boyfriend Gabriel Byrne, feels drafted in just to help sales in the west but simply leaves you thinking that the producers obviously wanted Cate Blanchett for the part before working their way down the list of female Oscar winners before they found someone who'd say yes. It doesn't entirely destroy the film but it often feels like a contrived diversion from the real business at hand, constantly running the risk of turning the siege into background for a not very interesting and underdeveloped story about a not very interesting and underdeveloped character.

Which is a shame, because director Aleksandr Buravsky has a good eye for striking visuals, particularly a low angle shot of a terrified horse as German planes roar overhead, and hides any budget limitations well. Although they don't get much screen time it's also quite good on the Nazis' tactics, with nocturnal air raids intended to prevent people fleeing the city because the more mouths to feed, the less calorific intake per person, the sooner the city would starve to death. It's the kind of thing the movie could do with more of, and it's a pity the film didn't widen its net to be more of an ensemble piece on both sides. (As with Admiral, this was released in two versions, a 110-minute feature film and a 200-minute mini-series, with some scenes from the latter shown in the fairly frank making of documentary on the DVD hinting that it might have had a slightly broader canvas in the longer cut.) Yet the human drama that could have drawn the viewer into the tragedy never works as well as the intermittent spectacle or vignettes of the increasingly ugly realities of survival, the vagaries on international co-production and presales all too noticeable in the casting of an American actress as an Englishwoman and the way it divides the aggressors into good German's (Alexander Beyer's suicidal pilot who hates targeting civilians) and bad (Armin Mueller-Stahl's ruthless general) to avoid alienating the German market. Yet there's enough in there that does work to make it worth a look - though perhaps that longer version, if it ever surfaces in the West, may be the better bet.

Metrodome's typically misleadingly packaged UK DVD offers a decent 2.35:1 widescreen transfer but the burned-in subtitles are so small it's not worth non-Russian speakers even thinking about trying to watch it if your TV screen is anything less than 40inches. Along with the aforementioned documentary there's also a 14-minute interview with the director.
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One big problem for film makers, is creating a narrative about such a momentous event as this siege. Moving on to formulate a dialogue and capture the action, to finally ensnare the imagination of people who have various muted forms of empathic connection. All ranging from those who who can, and those others who find it a great challenge, to encapsulate 1.5 million people slowly starving to death.

But tell me about the uniforms? Are they correct for an era? Are the right aeroplanes bombing the civillians?

Seemingly these films split down the middle based on their experience of the regime; those who suffered directly and those who swallowed too many pills of anti communism courtesy of indoctrination. It leaves them bereft of understanding the immense suffering depicted in these Russian films.

The worst of this type identify with the volk in black, not wanting their imagery tarnished with depictions of barbarism. Despite the fact, barbarism is what attracts these creatures to the creed. But when it comes to machine gunning children, the actuality of murder is something else, no they never did that. It is just propaganda.

Unless of course, these children become relabelled as gypsies or jews, they then become the "other," easily disposed of, repackaged into non people. These same black clothed volk, rally to the death penalty for paedophiles yet cannot see their reflection in those same shiny buttons.

Then there are the really disturbed, who get off on watching kids and women being annihilated, as now they can pretend they are the lord and master, a recompense from a general feeling of humiliation.

On the opposite polarity you have those who empathise with the plight of a city whose inhabitants are being starved to death. A city the size of Birmingham, which held out for months as everyone was slowly being murdered, as the rations are reduced crumb by crumb. Reality, depicted within this film is all gradually dying from creeping hunger. A film review for those who can connect to those who can encompass the horror.

The plot depicts the relationship between two intellectual women who forge a bond across the seemingly cultural and political divide. Both inhabit the horrors of the siege. One of whom is from England and the other is a Russian student who speaks English. Meanwhile the world around them is collapsing into a frozen wasteland, freezing over and gradually being annihilated, brick by brick, by the German forces.

They are depicted as the usual sadists, which they were, tinged with a hint of conscience, which is less believable. Given the scale of the atrocities on the East, the German average soldier was as much embroiled, as those dressed in black. This film depicts the heroism of the Russian people standing up to the violence of both the weather, their own internal systems and the invaders, to provide a transcendence.

This film, like other Russian war films, is extremely bleak, cold with a hint of warmth, bitter to the point of distilled vinegar, but underneath this tundra bubbles a human emotional warmth.

You need to penetrate the permafrost to discover it.
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on 24 February 2010
There are plenty of action scenes in this film about the siege of Leningrad (rather than 'the attack on'), but it frequently slows down into strange dialogues delivered by a bewildering number of people. The role of some of these characters in the whole, is not always obvious. The almost unreadable sub-titles certainly don't help to define what they are going on about, and I also seem to detect some dodgy dubbing, notably on the main character 'Kate Davis' who appears to be speaking in a rather lifeless voice.

The film delivers a chilling portrayal of a city under siege and there are strong scenes of life - and death - in the cold, windy streets. Many of these scenes seem to have been re-created from period documentaries. However, for some strange reason all German bombing raids appear to be carried out by Messerschmitt 109 fighters, visibly carrying no bombs! Since these scenes are computer animated anyway, one should think it would not have been to difficult to show Luftwaffe bomber aircraft instead. At least it would have been more authentic. The characters also look remarkably healthy throughout, even if starvation is a big issue and actually took several hundred thousand lives in Leningrad during the siege.

It is not a bad war film as such, but I found it strangely uninvolving.
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There is a split around this film with reviewers and I can see why, I initially felt this film was plodding a bit too slow, but it does try to deal with what was one of the worst sieges in modern history, in terms of the human casualties. Then it gets things historically wrong, such as using Mescherscmitt ME 109's to carry out the bombing (without bombs in the under carriage) which is just rubbish and was done using CGI so they could have done a real bomber. The characcters do lack real development, but there are some good performances, ostensibly by the children and everyone does look too well fed, but it might be asking a bit much of 'extras' to go without food for 6 months just for arts sake.

They did finally deal with the alleged canibalism and also the activities of the NKVD, but it did feel a little too revisionist with feigns at the emotional heart tug scenario, which just failed to come off - Schindlers List this most certainly is not. That said one of the reviewers here has said that 'Enemy at the gates' is a betteer film, I beg to differ as it has that talentless clothes horse Jude Law ruining an above adequate plot and is so historically inaccurate that it could have been written by the Polit Bureaus propaganda department. If you want a good real Russian WWII film try 'Star'.
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on 8 March 2014
Negative reviewers of this film are being a little picky, I think.
This is a film made by a Russian team, so you cannot judge it fairly using anglophone cultural standards.
You also need to bear in mind that WWII put a massive scar on the psyche of the Russian people, as anyone who has been to Leningrad/St Peterburg can attest to.

Films like Stalingrad appeal more to western audiences because they are made using anglophone teams (whether UK or american actors).

Enjoy it for what it is, an attempt to capture how human beings behave in the most extreme of circumstances AND a work of fiction.
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on 27 August 2011
I bought this DVD purely 'on spec' as a result of a long interest in the Russian Front. Basically I buy anything connected with that subject which looks even vaguely interesting and is not over-priced.
In this case I was pleasantly surprised. The cover of the DVD does not do the film any justice at all with what seem to be American planes strafing the hapless city. What type of aircraft they are, or to which side they belong cannot be determined, but surely a better jacket could have been designed.

That being said this is a very worthwhile human interest story of a young woman caught up in possibly the worst siege in modern history after returning to Russia, the land of her forbears, as a journalist just before the beginning of the war only to find that she is far from welcome in the first place.
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on 19 July 2013
This is not for those who like their viewing sugar coated. However, if you are looking for a view of history not in the usual catalogue of 'war films' then this is for you. It is a graphic depiction of one of the most brutal sieges in history. The devastation caused by continual bombardment, the starvation of the citizens and the desperation some went to to stay alive is all too vividly portrayed. Put this in a background of snow, ice and freezing conditions without the means of providing heating and you will have a fairly clear idea of what you get. I recommend it for an adult audience.
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on 9 March 2010
Purchased the movie on Blu-Ray after watching the trailer. Thinking it looked like a brilliant move i was sorely disappointed.

I am a big WW2 movie buff, have a solid 100 movies based in this genre. This one wont be making my long-term pile.
The 'big' actors in the movie were out-acted by the child actors (never a good sign in a movie). The main actors in the film were completely timid and flat. Bryne was in it for a grand total of about 7 minutes, so God only knows why he has his name plastered allover the movies advertising.
The cinematoraphy was awful, the true impact of the time the movie was focusing on was not absorbed into the makeup of the film. I agree with the other chap. For people who were starving, the actors in the movie looked overfed!

Easily the worst movie Sorvino has ever taken part in. Sometimes it showed as she looked quite bored...

To the other people who say this is one of the best WW2 movies they have ever seen. I suggest you check out movies such as 'Dresden', 'Enemy At The Gates' and 'Downfall'... Movies such as these make this movie look like the tat it is!
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