Top positive review
30 people found this helpful
"It is better to kill a useless sheep than to keep it"
on 12 July 2011
This film is set in 1941 Russia after the battle of Kiev (the box tells us that). It opens at a penal transit camp, where a new Major has arrived; his first job is to offer redemption to these prisoners. They are allowed to join a penal battalion. For those not familiar with how this concept worked, this was basically a death sentence, as the penal battalions were always given nasty and or suicidal missions. Surprisingly none of them volunteer.
The Major then instructs his Captain to send some guards with a dozen prisoners to a nearby ammunition dump - they are to destroy it to prevent it falling into the hands of the rapidly advancing Germans. So far so good, on the way they are attacked by German fighter bombers, and in the chaos, seven escape. There are two main characters, `Father' who is the nominal leader of the convicts, and `Picasso' so called because of his love of painting. He is a shadowy figure who says he knows of a hamlet that is not on any maps. They can make it to his aunt's house and hole up there.
His aunt is not there and appears to have been arrested for spying. Without doing any plot spoilers, they then discover she is incredibly well stocked up on food and ammunition.
Enter the Nazis; they too seem to know of the existence of the hamlet and the aunties house. They have parachuted behind the lines and are a nasty bunch. The Major has now seen Picasso's prison file and decides everything must be done to get him.
That is the scene setting for the crux of the film. The convicts are now faced with two enemies and have to decide what to do. This is a well directed (Sergey Chekalov) and acted film. It gets a bit confusing if you don't pay attention as the battle lines are some what blurred. The clothing and arms are very authentic, and the supporting cast all do a good job. It does have some action, but not throughout. This though is one of the better films that has come out of Russia of late and should be praised for tackling a unique part of WW2 in a different way. In Russian and German with good subtitles and a run time of 119 minutes, hard to compare it to other films, but if you like `Star' you will probably find this one appealing too.