Stalingrad (Blu-ray) (2013)

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Released 12-Jun-2014

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Alternative Version-3D and 2D versions of the film
Featurette-Making Of-The Making of Stalingrad (11:34) (2D disc only)
Featurette-Stereoscopic Stalingrad (5:34) (3D disc only)
Trailer-x 4 for other films (2D disc only)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 130:50
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Fedor Bondarchuk
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Pytor Fyodorov
Mariya Smolnikov
Thomas Kretschmann
Yanina Studilina
Dmitriy Lysenkov
Andrey Smolyakov
Aleksey Barabash
Sergey Bondarchuk
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Angelo Badalamenti


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Polish Dolby Digital 5.1
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Arabic
Bulgarian
Croatian
Czech
Estonian
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Latvian
Lithuanian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Serbian
Slovak
Slovenian
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     November 1942. At the height of the battle for Stalingrad a squad of Russian soldiers lead by Gromov (Pytor Fyodorov) crosses the Volga River into the devastated city and captures a strategically vital apartment building from the Germans. Gromov, gathering together whatever men he can find, is then ordered to hold the building against German attacks until reinforced. These defenders are a diverse group and include the sniper Chvanov, (Dmitriy Lysenkov), gunner Polyakov, (Andrey Smolyakov), ex-concert performer Nikiforov (Aleksey Barabash and radio operator Sergey (Sergey Bondarchuk). In the rubble of the apartment building the soldiers find a number of civilians who had been existing amid the ruins, including eighteen year old Katya (Mariya Smolnikov), whom the group “adopt”. Leading the German attempts to recapture the building is Kahn (Thomas Kretschmann) who has fallen in love with Russian woman Masha (Yanina Studilina) who he visits. Both Russians and Germans try to find some peace amid the carnage and destruction but the war is never far away and death may be the only way out.

     Stalingrad was directed by Fedor Bondarchuk. His first film (which I enjoyed and reviewed on this site) was 9th Company (9 rota), a fictional account of a company of Russian soldiers defending a hill in eastern Afghanistan shortly before the Soviet pull-out. 9th Company was the highest grossing Russian film of 2005 and since then Bondarchuk has expanded his scope; at an estimated cost of $US30 million Stalingrad was hugely expensive by Russian standards and was the first non-North American film made in the IMAX format. $US4 million alone was spent on reconstructing the devastation of the Stalingrad streets (rather than using green-screen) and it was well spent as the set looks stunning. Another plus in Stalingrad is the action sequences which include slow motion, fire effects and unusual camera angles; they are chaotic and intense as aircraft attack and crash, artillery and mortar rounds strike, bullets whine and ricochet, tracer rounds fly, tanks rumble through the destroyed streets, grenades explode and walls collapse. Yet, in a way the action feels old fashioned for it is greatly sanitised and one seldom gets the feeling of the brutality, blood and carnage of the conflict in a way that has become standard since Saving Private Ryan. This is not a film, for all the explosions, where limbs or bodies are blown apart in showers of blood!

     The acting, especially from the Russian soldiers, is low key and natural and Pytor Fyodorov is very good as the leader who has seen it all. Covering only three days of the battle and concentrating on the people in the ruins, both soldiers and civilians, the film retains a narrow focus rather than trying to bring in the wider picture or the higher echelons of the command on either side. This focus on individuals means that the film attempts to show the human side of the conflict and the fate of the civilians caught in the city. It should have worked better than it does for, like the action, this part of the story also feels old fashioned; the Russian soldiers’ tentative attempts to flirt with Katya, and her birthday party, are sweet if rather sentimental and unrealistic, while the relationship between Kahn and Masha does not convince. The reality of civilians caught up in the conflict must have been more brutal and terrifying than this. The filmmakers’ decision to bookend the film with events during the 2011 Japanese tsunami also seems a clumsy way to add a voiceover narration to the main story.

     The battle for Stalingrad was a pivotal event in the defeat of Nazi Germany in WW2 but not being in a theatre of war where Americans or British fought it has received only a few film treatments, and only one that I know of in English, Enemy at the Gates in 2001. There has been a previous Russian film called Stalingrad, released in 1990, in which Fedor Bondarchuk, the director of the current Stalingrad, had an acting role plus the excellent German film Stalingrad in 1993, in which Thomas Kretschmann also starred, so he must be a Stalingrad expert by now! There was also a 3 part German TV documentary Stalingrad made in 2003; I have reviewed both the German film and documentary on this site, and both, to me, show a more brutal reality of the battle.

    Note: the package comes with two Blu-rays, one containing the 3D version of the film, the other the 2D version. This review is of the 2D version.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Stalingrad is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The print is excellent with every line, dirt mark, blood splotch on faces and hands finely detailed. Colours, especially faces, have a glossy digital look under lights but this is a Russian winter so the colour palate is dull; many scenes are very dark and there is a constant fall of grey ash from the fires and destruction that is overlaid over the ruined grey and black buildings. The costumes and uniforms of course lack colour, the only vibrant colours are the reds and yellows of fires, muzzle flashes, tracer and explosions, including the explosion of the fuel tanks. Blacks are rock solid and the shadow detail excellent, while contrast and brightness is consistent.

     I did not notice any marks or artefacts.

     Subtitles are available in a wide range of languages, including English and English for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles are in a clear white font and did not contain any spelling or grammatical errors.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is where I have some reservations about this Blu-ray. It provides English and Portuguese DTS-HD MA 5.1 tracks, English Descriptive audio and Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. In other words, the original Russian is only Dolby Digital, while English and Portuguese gets the HD audio. This is despite the Region A US Blu-ray having a Russian DTS-HD MA 5.1 track.

     This does not matter if you are happy to go with the English, although it must be said that only the Russian is dubbed into English while the sections of German dialogue remain in German and are subtitled. Compared to the original Russian dialogue, which sounds deeper and weary, the English voices sound young and quite cheerful. However, when it comes to the action there is no contest as the DTS-HD is vastly superior; the engines, artillery, explosions, gunshots and the crashing bomber resonate and fill the sound stage while the sub-woofer booms. This is enveloping and exhilarating. The Dolby Digital is OK, but not in the same league.

    Lip synchronisation was fine in the Russian, indifferent in the English dub.

     The original music is by Angelo Badalamenti, who has scored often for David Lynch. It is suitably epic and good use is also made of some Puccini.

     The scores for the audio are a composite, and I don’t understand why we do not get the original Russian in HD.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The package comes with two Blu-rays, one containing the 3D version of the film, the other the 2D version. There are minor but different extras on each version of the film.

2D disc

The Making of Stalingrad (11:34)

    This consists of film and on-set footage plus interview segments with the director, DP, producer, production designer, costume designer, 2nd unit director, stunt co-ordinator, pyrotechnics manager and cast Pytor Fyodorov, Mariya Smolnikov, Thomas Kretschmann and Andrey Smolyakov. Aspects covered include the cast, characters, constructing the set and the stunts. Fairly superficial, but still worth a look.

Previews

     A Blu-ray promotion (2:21) and trailers for A Fighting Man (2:03), Company of Heroes (2:16), Ice Soldiers (1:39) and Bad Country (1:50).

3D disc

Stereoscopic Stalingrad (5:34)

    Matthew Blute (Stereographic Supervisor) and Steve Schklair (3D Producer and CEO) talk about the 3D process and Stalingrad.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The US Region A release of Stalingrad is the same 3D / 2D set, with the same extras. It has different language and subtitle options and, as noted, it includes the original Russian in DTS-HD MA which to me gives it the edge.

Summary

     Stalingrad is Russian director Fedor Bondarchuk’s go at a Hollywood war epic with enough slow motion, fire effects, unusual camera angles, aircraft attacks, artillery and mortar rounds, tracers, tanks, explosions and rumble to make Michael Bay envious. While let down by the human elements and some clumsy scripting, the action and sets make this version of Stalingrad worth a look.

     The video is very good, the audio excellent as long as you don’t prefer to watch the film in its original Russian. Extras are minor, but are the same as available elsewhere.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, December 22, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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