An epic treatment of World War II's most prolonged and bloodiest battle has yet to be made, but this grunt's eye view of that event is a powerful dramatic treatment on its own terms. Even before the storm troopers of the Sixth Army depart for the Russian front from a beachside idyll in Italy, there is a suggestion of trouble in the ranks when one of their number refuses to button his collar for a medals ceremony and his commanding officer in turn refuses to award him his medal. This theme, the conflict between the ground-level soldier and the officers who blindly follow orders, caring little for the morale of their men, is best illustrated in a terse exchange of dialogue. When a captain tries to tell Sergeant Rohleder (Jochen Nickel), "I'm not a Nazi," the weary, nearly frozen sergeant replies, "No. You're worse, you lousy officers. You went along, even though you knew who was in charge." In this movie's view, Stalingrad became less of a battle against the Russians and a more a battle for survival. "If you start to think, you go crazy," advises one soldier to another even before they're in desperate straits, and there are few heroes in this story, just men operating on gut instinct. The script focuses on a small company of soldiers, all of them fairly admirable, though as their number dwindles, they become divided on the limits of their duty to the Fatherland. Like Das Boot, with whom this shares a number of production personnel, this was a TV miniseries in Germany, which doesn't mean the filmmakers stint on their depictions of violence. Even if it comes up short in depicting the details of the German command's folly in fighting on through the winter, Stalingrad, like Das Boot, does transcend national rooting interests in offering a vivid depiction of the insanity of war.
by Tom Wiener review