Runtime: 130 Mins
Stalingrad (2013) is a soup of sappy, overwrought pseudo philosophical old piss. You know the type, the one that thinks it’s so much more clever than the rest, but is actually a picture of narrative redundancy. This movie is an affront to the bloodiest battle in the history of mankind, a movie full of men sitting around in buildings going over silly nonsense. Sentimental slop here, mushy musings there. What a hackneyed attempt to rip off The Thin Red Line (1998). And that’s before we get to the worst of it, romance – double servings. I genuinely think this is the worst war movie I’ve ever seen. Think of everything that has ever ruined a particular war movie over the years, Stalingrad has them all combined into one movie.
Here’s a tip – when you’re making a war movie, have a fucking point. An objective. A mission. Something, anything. Stalingrad was among the most pivotal and strategic battles in the history of warfare, so you’d think they’d have plenty to chew on here, substance-wise. Do they focus on consequences or their unique position of immense historical proportions? The fuck they do. Instead, we get not one but two romantic subplots. One for the Germans, one for the Russians. Here’s a battle where, in one city, approximately one man died every 15 seconds, for five straight months, leaving 1,000,000 dead. A battle of such unprecedented ferocity, the sewers were awash with more blood and guts than actual waste. Yet this movie forces us up that tired old alley of romantic slurry. No war here, just sweet nothings in the basement. How dare they.
It’s not just that the film is a case of failed screenwriting, it’s also a directorial failure that looks like crap. You want to talk about production? In a nutshell, $30 million down the shitter. It’s jam packed with CGI backgrounds and they look so awkward, so unnatural. This creates a problem in that you have two kinds of angles, one with a fake CGI background, or a suffocating and cheap looking soundstage, deliberately designed to mask the lack of real backgrounds. The movie will only show the horizon if it’s two miles away, it can’t show anything at a distance of, say, 200 yards… because they can’t get the CGI to function convincingly that close. And in a battle about close quarters combat, which is what Stalingrad was, this is exactly the type of draw distance we should be seeing. The end result is that the city looks fake and synthetic.
Maybe worse than anything though, or at least almost as bad as the shitty character relations and forced romance, is the director’s penchant for slow motion. It’s one of the worst abuses of slow mo ever. Because of the ludicrous over employment of slow mo, by the 20 minute mark of this 130 minute feature, for that reason alone I was already thinking of throwing in the towel. It seems that the only time slow mo isn’t used is when people have to actually communicate with each other and when they stop, it’s back to it: slow mo for eating, blinking and walking up the street. In the action sequences, of which there are few, the slow mo itself is actually slow mo’ed, to present a super-slow-mo. All this cheese does is expose the director as a greenhorn with too high an opinion of his own work.