Average User Score: 4.8Jun 29, 2014Not to be confused with the excellent German film of the same name from 1993, Fedor Bondarchuk’s take on what is the most harrowing of humanNot to be confused with the excellent German film of the same name from 1993, Fedor Bondarchuk’s take on what is the most harrowing of human depravity is nothing short of an atrocity in and of itself. It is a beautifully shot mockery of the horrors of war and the sacrifices made by those who suffered through it. It fails on almost every level in which a film can fail. Avoid at all cost, for details continue reading.
Stalingrad takes its inception from the true life events of Pavlov’s house. This was an apartment building in Stalingrad where twenty-five Russian soldiers held off hundreds of German soldiers under the command of one sergeant Pavlov. Bondarchuk takes this epic premise and infuses it with stale romantics, over-choreographed action sequences and so much heavy handed propaganda that it to feel like a soap opera with Spielbergian production values.
The script is the first and foremost problem. Like Enemy at the Gates before it, Stalingrad seems to think that a war story cannot be told authentically without a love story. In this case Stalingrad one ups Enemy at the Gates by cramming not one, but two stale and forced romantic angles. The first is between Katya, the Russian civilian who stays behind in the ruined shell of a city and her valiant defenders, six Russian soldiers. The script routinely points out that there are in fact six main soldiers at the house and yet she only falls in love with five, for whatever reason. It’s okay though, the sixth guy is in the navy so he’s probably gay or something. At no point in the film does any kind of truly romantic action actually occur. Throughout, she routinely becomes a liability, a distraction and yet for whatever reason, five men fall in love with her. Instead of manning defenses and planning strategies on how to survive, they bake her cakes, run across trenches with bath tubs while under fire and gawk and awe. Out of what do they bake this cake? **** you, that’s what. This movie is not about logic or authenticity, don’t forget that. In the end this angle winds up becoming very creepy as they all begin to treat her as a prize, gazing upon her as a sacrificial lamb destined to be their salvation. They all see her as a ticket to their own salvation, always ready to unload their personal deamons on her, but never once taking her issues into account. This might have been some kind of super deep point made in the script. If it is, it was done very poorly because it comes off as a shallow way to artificially extend runtime.
The second love story is the better of the two, not that, that’s saying much. This ‘love’ story is between the German captain Khan (Thomas Krietschman) and Masha a Russian civilian. This arc fails miserably as well. The two do not speak one anothers language, but through the power of love they find a connection. Does it matter that Khan rapes her and treats her as a valued ornament? Of course it doesn’t, because they love each other deeply, even as she tightly grips a knife for defense in anticipation of his return. The film at one point does try to address the issue of wartime rape, but quickly brushes it away as if it’s something icky that is nothing more than a footnote. Add another check in the shamefull column for this film. The last point of contrition with the love stories is how they treat the women. They are eye candy, porcelain dolls to be saved by greasy patriotic men with conflicted morals. This causes the biggest flaw with the romantic arcs, they are one sided. This essentially means we only get half the story and miss out on some crucial parts.
Now that we have the forced romance part taken care of, let’s take a gander at the characters, shall we. The Russians, bold, patriotic, heroic, valiant and whatever other propaganda like descriptor you can throw out. You won’t learn their names because that is unimportant. Bondarchuk seems to think that character development only gets in the way of cool explosions. At least Bay tries to give his characters cool names so as to be memorable. There is the stoic captain, the bear like naval marine, the boyish artillery officer, the silver tongue sniper, the silent badass and the father figure. They all get a forgettable backstory that is only good for a laugh through quite possibly the worst narration ever put into a major production, more on that later. All you really need to know is that these guys are, badass. Like, really badass, so badass in fact that all their fight sequences automatically go into slow motion and they never miss a shot.
On the other side of the conflict we have the Nazis. These aren’t the Nazis you will find in a film that is dedicated to authenticity. They have no character, no humanity. They are cartoon villains worthy of some terribly animated Hannah-Barbara cartoon. Their level of cartoonishness knows no bounds, they offer sacrifices to the pagan gods and then pray to the one true god for protection, they bumble about like idiots in a city full of snipers. They scream and stomp and you can almost see the steam shooting from their ears as they scream at their freshly foiled plan. This level of cartoonishness does not heighten their monstrousness, rather it neuters it. You can take them no more seriously than a Scoobie Doo villain of the week as they fumble about, failing to catch zem pesky Ruskies.
Yet none of the above is even the most egregious of faults to be found in the film although it ties into it. Yes I did just use egregious, deal with it. Where Stalingrad (1993) and Enemy at the Gates attempted and by in large succeeded at showing you the horrors of war, the brutality of combat and its effects on those who witness it or participate in it, Stalingrad (2013) glorifies it. The only way to describe it is, imagine if Call of Duty marketed itself as a war simulator. The film shows us the battles as these over-choreographed MMA matches, where everyone has a blackbelt. It strips away the reality by glossing over the brutality of the battle and the suffering and trying to make it look cool for the sake of Americanizing the film. Watching the action scenes was sickening. Bondarchuk and company, perversely **** the brutality of war, there were some moments were I could feel tears of disgust swelling in my eyes. That has never before happened to me. There were times that the choreography of the shots and action became indistinguishable from a videogame. I was shocked and stunned. It is one thing for an action or war movie to revel in death and destruction for the sake of entertainment. It is a wholly different matter when said film seeks to honour veterans through this form of tasteless mockery.
The final nail in the coffin for this atrocious garbage is the narration/dubbing. Having watched the dubbed version I cannot conclusively say whether the Russian narration was any good. What I can say though is that it is completely unnecessary. The script has the narrator either describing the scene you are about to watch verbatim or giving you some melodramatic description of feelings that would be more at home on a soap like “All my circuits”. The dubbing only serves to compound all of this. It sounds as if they hired the producers bag boy and had him record all the dialogue the afternoon before the film’s release. The voice sound stale, robotic and worst of all, way too young to be coming from the faceless narrator. But hey, if you’re gonna **** on heroes, you might as well go all out right?
But why would they do this? 3D, that’s why. Three dimensions is the curse and extremely minor blessing of this film. Billed as Russia’s first 3D film, it pays more attention to the format of the camera, rather than the tail. Every scene and shot is framed in service to three dimensions. The slow motion is reminiscent of 300 and works perfectly well with the 3D element. Frankly told, the 3D is eye popping and the cinematography is fantastic. It is one of the only two good things about this film. Sadly what the filmmakers fail to realize is that, a movie that is a slave to 3D gimmicks is a terrible idea, no matter how pictueresque each and every frame of your film is.
The other good part of the film is Thomas Kriestchman. He is fantastic in the film. He brings ethos and humanity to his character. His performance is all the better when you factor in the fact that his character is a scatter shot of emotions and reasoning. His vacant stares and hallow declarations of love fit perfectly into the beautiful rubble created for this film. Kriestchman’s Khan perfectly encapsulates the collapsing world all around him. I imagine this comes from the fact that Stalingrad (1993) was one of his first films so some of the experience must have carried over to this turd of a production. Too bad that the role was buried by hammy dialog and action found in the script.
At the end of the day, all one can say about this movie is that it is a polished turd. By far, this is the worst film I have ever had the displeasure to watch. Poorly made and insulting.**** you Fedor Bondarchuk and who ever gave you the money to make this piece of **** I hope you never get funded again.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.3Jan 19, 2014The film is chalk full of good performances, too bad they’re drowned out by weak storytelling, blathering dialog and an unsure sense of style.The film is chalk full of good performances, too bad they’re drowned out by weak storytelling, blathering dialog and an unsure sense of style.
Bale, Cooper, Adams, Lawrence, Renner and the rest all give solid performances. Bale as the self-assured conman is as usual, methodical in his performance. Cooper is rightly over the top in his role as the overly self-involved FBI agent. Adams is rock solid, albeit Russell and the wardrobe department seem to think her cleavage should have top billing. Lawrence does her Silver Linings shtick and does it really well. Renner is wonderfully charismatic as the naïve corrupt mayor. And yet all these parts do not add up to a great or even a good movie.
The poor storytelling that is on display in this film well, it wastes all the strength of its performances. The film is merely a series of events strung together to deliver the semblance of a story. The film starts of quickly enough, but quickly spirals out of control as the narration speeds through events and character development from one set piece to the next. The audience has no time to breathe or take in any of the atmosphere that Russell rushes through on his way to fill the tale with detail. Characters are introduced and then promptly discarded as if they were nothing more than set pieces (poor Michael Pena). Major events are set up that have the pacing of a teledrama, like the documentaries on crime you see while skipping through the history channel in the morning, albeit with a few **** more. It’s such a flurrying buzz of events and information presented in a disorganized fashion that by the end you’re not entirely sure what you’ve just sat through. Sure the story is all their, the pieces fit, but the elegance of the man who brought us The Fighter, Three Kings and such is nowhere to be seen. The narration does not help things, there are three different narrations and their used in an ad hoc manner as if they weren’t sure whether to use them or not, so instead they cut it down and sprinkled it down at random points throughout the film. All this combines to create an environment where even a great performance is easily lost to sloppy filmmaking. By mid-way through the film you realize, that you might be more interested in reading the Wikipedia article about the Abscam then actually finishing this meandering film.
Lawrence’s manic energy is drowned out to make room for as much story as possible. Her character has no moments of connection; she is all energy all the time. There is no respite from her whimsy, she exits only to do bafflingly stupid things and is given no redemptive qualities. Lawrence does her best, and I can imagine a lot of her performance was left on the cutting room floor, but she can’t get over the fact that her character is nothing more than a means to an end, like the car that gets them from point A to point B. Renner fares little better as the nice but naïve mayor. His character is made to look like such an oaf you begin to wonder how he ever became a mayor of anything. These two are the main supporting cast so if they’re treated like furniture, imagine how the third tier cast is treated.
Cooper and Bale are good in their roles, but their resolved to acting out specific scenes that rarely tie into the previous one. This makes it seem as if their performances are uneven and at time all over the place. By the end of it, the two seem to blend in as almost one character that could be interchangeable were it not for the hair styles. Russell should’ve look to The Town to see how it is that a film makes a clean cop look like the bad guy.
Adams on the other hand is evidently trying and the camera pays her a lot of attention. Wait no sorry my mistake, it pays her breasts a lot of attention. Apparently the films wardrobe didn’t allow for a dress or shirt that didn’t show of her mammary glands. In a film like this, this kind of attire distracts from the performance, which I think was pretty good, but thanks to the camera’s constant focus on her **** or hair I can’t be sure. In fact this brings up a great way to Segway to the next point.
With films dull, textbook like narrative structure one might be prone to dose of or possibly even turn of the movie and save yourself at least one hour that this movie robs you of. In my case that wasn’t the case, I strove to finish it even as my brain screamed at me to just read the Wikipedia article to see what happens. Thankfully I stayed which allowed me to experience the good part of the film. No not the end, that was just as boring as the start. No, I talk of the technical side and visual style of the film. The camera work is fantastic. As the camera flows and weaves through each set piece, it’s almost like floating through the film on a cloud. You find yourself ignoring the blathering dialogue and enjoying the picturesque view of the film.
The art deco and cinematography both do a wonderful job, even if they falter once or twice. The glitz and glamour of the Abscam world is brought to vibrant light as the characters navigate their harrowing odyssey. The disco scene in particular is stunning to behold. The colours, the movement, the sound all match up perfectly. They almost make you forget that you’re watching a **** film. The only odd part about the deco style of the film is when they try to throw in some gritty realism. It instantly looks out of place and knocks you from the daze. The start of the disco scene is a prime example of this. It’s as if they are trying to be an ode to seventies style fog machine but winds up looking cheap.
All said and done, the film is really just a montage of events padded to a two plus hour’s length. That or the film is really three hours long and was cut down without care for structure or pacing. The performances are good, but they are good enough to overlook the storytelling problems that painfully populate the screen. A film with tons of stuff happening, but lacking in tension. The Globes and the Academy might be giving Russell a pass, by I sure as hell won’t. But hey, at least it looks pretty.
Oh and it has a pretty decent soundtrack.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.6Jan 8, 2014A rare treat that comes around only once in a decade. The film is not linear, its not cohesive and by god it makes littel to no sense most ofA rare treat that comes around only once in a decade. The film is not linear, its not cohesive and by god it makes littel to no sense most of the time. That all said and done, it feels amazing. When you watch this film, it does what any great film should, it takes you away. It wipes clean everything else and transports you to a fantastic place. Its a melodrama so don't expect the acting to be top notch, but it doesnt matter. The way its told, the way its edited and then presented is stunning. Along with Children of God this is the best movie of the last decade. Even at its two and a half hour run time it hooks you till the end. It takes you away from whatever world you currently preside in and show you a tale of love and loss like little else that has ever been shown. If you love art and film this is a must see film. JUst one warning, don't watch it stoned.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.8Jan 7, 2014Technically proficient but lacking in soul. The film is marvelous to behold from an auditory and visual sense, but fail to hold up underTechnically proficient but lacking in soul. The film is marvelous to behold from an auditory and visual sense, but fail to hold up under artistic scrutiny. Much like Avatar its bombastic and visually stimulating but also fails to capture a core value. The performances are fine but not special, just clooney doing his shtick and Bullock doing an above par performance. Forget the scientific gripes, the problems stem with the fact that the film tries to be two things at once, a thriller and a lament on psychology. If youve seen children of men, you will undoubtably see how Curon was forced to make jarring pacing follies. That said and done, one must note what is probably the best score of the year. It is nigh perfect for every scene and moment. The visuals too must be praised as they suck you into each and every moment. Sadly though, like Avatar, this technical perfection lacks soul and good storytelling. This is only magnified by the fact that it's Alfonso Curon we are talking about. Hopefully with the Hollywood cred he's now achieved he will bring us something worth while with his next effort.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.0Jan 7, 2014Probably the best film of 2013. I write this now, because whenever I think about it, this is the only film that still jumps out at me. LevittProbably the best film of 2013. I write this now, because whenever I think about it, this is the only film that still jumps out at me. Levitt took all his experience in the industry and put it towards crafting one of the most honest films in a while. It captures gender differences in such a tender and honest way, while at times lashing out at us for our hypocrite and scathing nature. It manages to scold without offending. Levitt himself plays the jersey shore douche with pitch point accuracy. Johansson nails her im above you nature perfectly, its too bad she isnt being recognized for her acting in this film. Julian moore is also fantastic, playing the sexy educational mom without ever once feeling creepy. The film is tender and great. If there's one movie you should watch from 2013, this is it.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.4Jan 7, 2014This is a wonderful film, definetly one of the best this year, their is just one nagging problem and its a tad too much to ignore. Leo, Jonah,This is a wonderful film, definetly one of the best this year, their is just one nagging problem and its a tad too much to ignore. Leo, Jonah, Chandler, Mconoghay, they're all fantastic. Vibrance energy, hutzphah! gallor. They never miss a beat and are always fun too watch. The frentic pace of the film is perfectly complimented by the blaring in your face visual and editing of the film. Coupled with the 4th wall breaking style of narration, it really drags you into the ride. Problem is, the film is an hour too long. Leo's constant energy wears on you. Its so much for so long that you get lost in the ocean that is the wolf of wallstreet. The length also kind of drowns out Chandler. His character is left stuck mostly in the background as if he's more set decor than character. Chandler brings life to the moments he's in, but I just wish part of the three hours I invested spent more time with him, tghey could've cut a drug fueled scene or two for him. The tale is so sprawling that once you watch you seem to agree with its runtime, but when you reconsider, you will realize that you only gave it a pass because its a scorsese film. It's damn fine film, and some damn fine performance, with some great style, but overall it wears on the viewer. Buy it, rent it, netflix it, however you do it it, see it, but chances are you'll prefer it at home with a pause button.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.5Dec 18, 2013A mostly mediocre film with some incredible performances. The plot itself tugs at heart strings a tad too much but its okay since the endingA mostly mediocre film with some incredible performances. The plot itself tugs at heart strings a tad too much but its okay since the ending and acting are downright fantastic. Gyllenhall and Jackman are incredible and frankly its surprising to see the lack of love for them in this awards season. Even when the scene seems trite and overwrought with melodrama these two, neigh, the cast seems to ground it with force and believability unlike any other performance this year. The ending too is handled marvelously, making a perfect balancing act between meaningful and happy go lucky.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.2Aug 23, 2013This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Four years of waiting and all I get is this? Bloomkamp is full of so many intriguing ideas and is full of great ideas for how to film them, but with his sophomore effort he seems to try to hard to include everything. Instead we get glimpses of cool ideas, hammered together in a quickly paced fashion that doesn't amount to much more than a less tactful version of District 9. The characters like the plot have the biggest issue and much the same one, yes it looks and acts cool, but once the film hits the third act, any semblance of depth is sheered away by bombastic plot holes and character inconsistencies. Examples, Kruger is fantastically played by Sharto Copley, a psycho who only wants to get paid to do what he loves (excess violence), he is on one track that's it, not pit stops for anything else. To bad that in the third act he drops this veneer of violence for fun and pronounce a desire for world domination which had never been even hinted at before. As for the plot, well lets just say that by the end of the film, the Elysium populace are made to seem like nothing more than dicks who don't want to share their toys. The ending makes no logical sense when put under any kind of scrutiny. My final criticism of the film is the camera work. Its cool at first but then it tries to get all experimental which instead of looking cool, draws your attention to the fact that you know they're trying to look cool and instead becomes a distraction and annoyance. This doesn't make the film terrible, it just makes it incredibly disappointing. Sophomore slump you say? No excuse, Duncan Jones made a follow up real quick and it was a solid thriller. Bloomkamp needs to get back in the saddle, reign himself in and bring us the same glory that we got from D9. Stumble or no the film remains interesting to look at, this is the kind of film that will improve if they have an extended edition to explain some unanswered questions.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.5Aug 7, 2013What happened to the smart intelligent adaptation of Imperial Life in the Emerald City, which we were promised? Not here I can tell you that.What happened to the smart intelligent adaptation of Imperial Life in the Emerald City, which we were promised? Not here I can tell you that. Instead of a critical examination of the role of civilian leadership in the reconstruction of Baghdad, we get a rah-rah-rah, there is no WMD in Iraq and we've all been duped! No look at Matt Damon act passionate and champion a cause after it is already mainstream. This isn't analysis of the political leanings of the film or cast, rather this is an outline of the plot structure. Formulaic and so overtly black and white that it is cringe worthy. Their is no moral grey, the bad guys are simply bad guys and the good guys have no moral flaw, beyond "they're too just!". The characters are so cookie cutter that you can't root for the good guys and the bad guys are so generic that you don't care if they get away with it or are killed. The resolution of the film is empty, because it so blatantly puts an oversimplified message ahead of a good story and characterization. That is the biggest problem in the film, by taking a political non-fiction book and turning it into a fictional military 'thriller' that is heavy handed in its message it loses all meaning and turns you away from caring. Where a subtle hand was needed, we got a megaphone wielding wacko screaming from the roofs.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.3Jul 19, 2013This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. So, Only God Forgives, that was...ugh...ya? In all honesty though, if it hadn't been for the english dialogue and a rough ending (the 2nd draft of the script has the better ending), this would've been a masterpeice. If all you have seen from Refn is Drive, dont bother watching this until you have at least watched Bronson or Valhalla Rising. This film is more akin to those than Drive. This film can be majestic at times and devastatingly hallow at the same instance. ToKristin Scott Thomas and Vaaraj... Sorry great actor dude, these two give wonderful performances. Like most of the rest of the film, silence and body movement is key. The words mean nothing, but the movement of the bodies is whtat is the true delivery. Add that to the excellent, ne, stunning art design and cinematography and you have the prettiest film of the year. The look is like a canvas touched by a master. All this said, the picture is not perfect, but comparing it to drive is not quite right, it is more in the league of Valhalla Rising. The problem may be with the cut which was released (thats my bet) but in any case, it seems that several glaring faults damage this work. Even with its beauty it still seems confused as too its nature. The dialogue sounds tilted and forced, but the movement seems natural and poetic. This dichotemy pulls you from the film, into analysis mode, which does more damage than good, which is the opposite of what Valhalla did (minimalize dialogue to the point where you're watching a kinetic painting). Furthermore, the further we get through the film, the more disjointed it becomes. That said the film will be a delight for any fans of Refn. Twisted, surreal, artsy fartsy and experimental. Any fan of Refn will love this, anyone who is a fan of stylish films will love this.… Expand