Released by Well GO Entertainment
T-34 is not your Hogan’s Heroes. This Russian made film about such a resilient war machine is more about the people who can drive this tank, than anything else. It’s less about comedy or propaganda. The latter is inevitable, but more often than not, no matter which country the film is made in, the focus is often about the brotherhood forged.
Here, Nikolay Ivushkin (Alexander Petrov) is in the front lines. He quickly gets promoted to tank commander and despite being able to defeat a German Panzer attack, he and driver Stepan Vasilyonok (Viktor Dobronravov) are captured. They are sent to a concentration camp. Three years later, he meets his rival, Klaus Jäger (Vinzenz Kiefer) and is “coerced” to take part in local war games.
The 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend needs target practice, and the only expendable people are those who know how pilot the T-34-85 the Nazi’s salvaged. This tank survived thick and thin throughout many battles, and the Germans want to know what makes it tick. Nikolay convinces fellow inmates, an artillery specialist Serafim Ionov (Yuriy Borisov) and machine gunner Demyan Volchok (Anton Bogdanov) to participate, and doesn’t let everyone in that this will be their attempt to escape.
The highlight of this movie is in seeing how tank battles take place than those imagined in video games. They are large, clunky, machines. Not even playing Atari’s Battlezone–the original vector graphic game or the updated version imagined in virtual reality–can give credence to all that’s required. A team of five individuals sit in a unit, and for them to coordinate in such a confined space had me curious about this work. To show a side of the war from this perspective shows it’s not always about guns and glory.
Historians and former tank commanders were consulted to ensure accuracy. Despite being glued to the action than the drama, the story of hope is what drives T-34 forward. Like Colonel Hogan, Nikolay has a thing for the local ladies. A bond quickly develops for Anya (Irina Starshenbaum), an interpreter sympathetic to this prisoner’s plight. The performances are very strong, and the cinematography borrows on the neo-noir style to give this work the edge it needs to look terrific on the big screen.
While the CGI has not improved by much since the Night Watch films from more than a decade ago, at least Russian filmmakers have a style that’s easily distinguishable. They love The Matrix (where slow-motion action started) and with tank warfare, it helps viewers get a feel for the action. I’d hate to be in their shoes, but thankfully this work is more about the heroism involved than the war these fellows got stuck in.
3½ Shells out of 5