Director: Sergey Mokritskiy
Starring: Yuliya Peresild, Evgeniy Tsyganov & Joan Blackham
Synopsis: A woman who changed the course of history.
Rating: 15 Duration: 122 minutes Release date: 16 May (UK)
It’s fairly uninspiring when a film based upon one of the most iconic figures of World War Two fails to engage you in any rational sense. The story of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the most successful female sniper in history should be a stunning drama that gets into the mind of one of history’s most revered characters. Instead, Battle for Sevastopol feels like a poorly made documentary that is neither exciting or particularly engaging.
Battle for Sevastopol starts as it means to go on with an awkward meeting in the White House, where Eleanor Roosevelt is meeting with combatants from the war. The usual pleasantries are exchanged, but it is Lyudmila Pavlichenko who she really takes a shine to, and so begins a relationship between these two powerful women that centres the film as the audience see flashbacks to Pavlichenko’s time serving during WWII.
Immediately, Battle for Sevastopol feels clunky and clumsy. The early scenes feel false and there is an awful attempt at dubbing over the original lines. This further creates a feeling that events are being strained to the point where the film begins to border on un-watcahable, and this is within the first 35 minutes.
The film continues to strike an uneven tone for its 122 minute duration, a fact not helped by its slow pacing. Director Sergey Mokritskiy is now on his third full length feature yet he doesn’t seem to have crafted a style to call his own. We find ourselves moving between the White House and WWII without knowing where our focus should lie, creating an unsteady feel to the film.
Further to the audiences discomfort is a museum style narration that plays over sections of the film. It’s not entirely ridiculous at this point to imagine yourself walking around with a pair of headphones on while a polite speaking woman informs you of the various points in the film that are significant to the viewer. It really does feel very clunky at times and despite some effort, it doesn’t grip at all.
It would be unfair to be completely negative though, as there are some good points. Despite some dodgy looking special effects, the battle scenes are very well done but would have benefited from a larger budget. Nevertheless, the scenes on the battlefield are very well handled with a tension and brutality that could rival any Hollywood war film. There is one scene that sticks out, when a fleet of warships face an aerial bombardment and Mokritskiy shows a real flare for action.
Unfortunately, due to poor narration and some truly flat characterisation Battle for Sevastopol never moves into gear and doesn’t take aim at the spoils of war or who really suffers during conflict. As a biography, it is merely okay, which is a great shame considering who the film is about.