After a strong Olympic showing, Russia isn't securing Oscar gold with "Stalingrad," which was submitted for the foreign-language film Academy Award but didn't make the final list of nominees. But there's plenty of competitively epic epicness on display nonetheless.
If you're making the first Russian film to be released in 3-D and Imax, after all, why not scorch the screen with the blood, fire, ash and emotion swirling around the decisive Eastern Front battle of World War II?
Director Fedor Bondarchuk's fervidly realized, effects-laden set pieces include a torturous Volga river crossing, a blazing fuel depot, a plane crash and grueling firefights between German and Russian forces camped out in decimated buildings.
The intense if trite human drama in the screenplay from Ilya Tilkin and Sergey Snezhkin covers both sides: a ragtag band of Russian soldiers protecting a fiercely determined 18-year-old woman (Mariya Smolnikova, with a face worthy of the silent era) who wouldn't leave her ruined home, and the doomed romance between a meditative German soldier (Thomas Kretschmann) and the local beauty he keeps in his bed.
Though plenty of road-tested war truths about sacrifice, honor, grit and intimacy get trotted out, "Stalingrad" is deep down a spectacle campaign forged in operatic violence and a siege of the senses, and on those terms it has its moments.
MPAA rating: R for war violence
Running time: 2 hours, 12 minutes
Playing: In wide releaseCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times