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(Review originally written at 16 October 2006)

This movie basically is a very well made production and gives a good impression of a war situation and its effects on those involved. It's always interesting to see the story from the 'other' side for a change. This movie concentrates on a group of German soldiers who after fighting in the North Africa campaign are send to Stalingrad, Russia, where one of the most notorious and bloodiest battles of WW II is being fought.

It's interesting to see the other side of this battle, since we mainly just always see the Germans simply as the 'villains'. In this movie those 'villains' are given an humane face and voice and it sort of makes you realize that the only true enemy in war is war itself and not necessarily those who you're fighting against. At first it's kind of hard to concentrate on the movie because you always just have in the back of your mind that the German's are the evil villains. But of course you get accustomed to it quickly and you soon adapt the Germans as the main characters of the movie and you even start to care -and be interested in them.

The way this story is told isn't however the best. It's hard to keep track of the story at times, as it jumps from the one sequence and location to the other. The movie isn't always logic in its storytelling and features a bit too many sequences that remain too vague. It also is most of the time pretty hard to keep the characters apart and see who is who. It doesn't always makes this movie an easy on to watch but than again on the other hand, there are plenty enough sequences and moments present in this movie to make it worthwhile and an interesting one, just not the most coherent one around. In that regard Hollywood movies are always better than European movies.

The production values are high and features some good looking sets and locations, though the movie wasn't even shot in Russia itself. It helps to create a good war time situation atmosphere.

The character are mostly interesting although perhaps a tad bit formulaic. But I don't know, for some reason formulaic characters always work out fine in war movies and strenghtens the drama and realism. It also helps that they're being played by well cast actors. All of the actors aren't the best known actors around (Thomas Kretschmann was also at the time still a fairly unknown actor) but each of them fit their role well and gives its characters an unique face and personality.

All in all not the best or most consistent WW II drama around but definitely worth a look, due to its original approach of the German side of the battle of Stalingrad and its good production values.

7/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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