They Fought For Their Motherland
(15) 137min (Nouveaux Pictures/DVD retail)
Like Sergei Bondarchuk’s earlier Destiny of a Man, this is taken from a book by Mikhail Sholokhov, a writer best known for And Quiet Flows the Don. Unlike that film, this is a multi-character, ragbag ‘men on a mission’ flick where the troops don’t so much have a ‘destiny’ as a ‘brief’. As the Soviet army is forced to retreat after Hitler mobilises his troops against his former allies, a handful of soldiers do their utmost to keep the Germans from advancing too quickly.
There are some fine fighting sequences, and Bondarchuk looks like he had as many military resources at his disposal as Stalin did fighting the Germans in WWII. But the film feels cumbersomely repetitive, and the characters never quite become more than stereotypes. Extras include interviews with lead actress Irina Skobtseva and leading Soviet film historian Professor A Ushakov.