Friday, December 18, 2020


Well, we’re down to the final 4 and they are all great war movies.  Two are modern and the other two are black and white classics.  Two are German and the others are from Finland and Russia.  I don’t think I would have predicted all four would make it this far, but I don’t consider any of them to be a surprise.  One matchup is between the #2 and #3 seeds, but the other has two not so highly rated movies.  Any would be a worthy winner, so let’s see who will come out on top.

Fortress of War (8) vs.  Stalingrad:  Dogs Do You Want to Live Forever  (12)

The Bridge  (2)  vs.  Unknown Soldier  (3)

Any thoughts on which one should win the tournament?    

Here are the categories:





Brest Fortress (8) vs.  Stalingrad:  Dogs Do You Want to Live Forever?  (12)


                “Brest Fortress” has outstanding effects.  The artillery bombardment is one of the best of any war movie.  These are not the cheap gas explosions you see in a lot of war movies.  The results of the bomb explosions and the bullets hitting is top notch.  Buildings really catch hell in this movie.  The combat is graphic with realistic wounds.  Whoever was in charge of dead bodies did a bang-up job.    The sound effects sync up with the battles to provide an assault on the senses that almost puts you on the receiving end.  The film does have some CGI aircraft that are just average, but at least not laughable.  The Stuka bombing scene is cool.  There is also a titanic explosion from a two-ton bomb.  GRADE  =  A  (9)

                “Stalingrad:  Dogs…” was made before CGI and modern special effects.  It uses real footage seamlessly.  Western audiences got to see “Stalin’s Organs” in their dreadful glory.  The bomb effects are above average.  Stalingrad is authentically rubbleized.  It is not a movie that relies on effects.  GRADE  =  C  (7)


                There is nothing special about the dialogue in “Fortress of War”, but it is not hammily propagandistic like most Soviet films before the Thaw.  No one gives a speech, although the situations lend themselves to soap boxes.  No one gives a death monologue.  There are few memorable lines.  One soldier describes war as “ordinary and terrible.”  The movie has narration by Sashka as an old man.  It’s effective in setting the tone.  GRADE  =  C  (7)

                “Stalingrad:  Dogs…” is terse in its dialogue.  There’s no speechifying.  The men are appropriately laconic for well-disciplined soldiers who are facing death.  The grumbling seems right for men trapped in Stalingrad.  “This is the asshole of the world”.  There are a few good lines.  When Wisse talks about how he was taught to not rely on God, Kasselbach responds:  “Until you blow a tire.”  The chaplain chides a disbeliever with:  “Sometimes God only reveals himself in Hell.”  The narration is documentary style and gives a great overview of the military situation.  GRADE  =  B  (8)


                “Brest Fortress” is based on a true story, so the strategy and tactics are supposedly accurate.  The Germans send an infiltration unit dressed as Soviets to cut water and electricity.  They open the battle with an artillery bombardment and try frontal assaults at first, until heavy losses cause them to settle into a siege.  Air attacks by Stukas are used to weaken the defenses.  The Germans wait for the desperate defenders to attempt to break out and then ambush them.  The Soviets are on the defensive for the most part.  They maintain heavy fire on the bridge leading into the fortress.  At one point, one Soviet group meets a German infantry/tank assault by charging to close the distance so the tanks can’t be as effective.  This was a bit shaky.  Overall, nothing happens that is head-scratching.  GRADE  =  A  (9)

                “Stalingrad:  Dogs…” is not based on a true story, but the big picture information about the battle is accurate.  The movie does an outstanding job informing the audience about the pincer movement that got the Germans surrounded.  Although a movie that concentrates on just a few German soldiers, there is coverage of the decision making by von Paulus.  The audience learns that the German commander disregarded sound advice from his subordinates because he was too loyal to Hitler.  It does a great job on the Hoth offensive which failed to break through.  On the micro level, the movie does give a taste for the house-to-house aspect of the battle, but you do not get a good feel for how desperate the fighting was.  There is the rare appearance of artillery spotting, but the Germans are low ammunition so we don’t actually see the tactic in operation.  GRADE  =  B  (8)


                “Brest Fortress” has a total of about 18 minutes of combat.  That is about 13% of the total.  GRADE  =  B  (8)

                “Stalingrad:  Dogs…” has 10 minutes of combat which is about 11% of the movie.  GRADE  =  C  (7)

FINAL SCORE:  Brest Fortress    33

                           Stalingrad:  Dogs  30


                Although the quantity of combat is similar, “Brest Fortress” is much more of a combat movie than “Stalingrad:  Dogs Do You Want to Live Forever?”, so given the goal of the tournament, it is the more worthy entrant.  I love both movies and have seen both multiple times.  I do tend to think modern movies have advantages in portraying realistic combat, so “Brest Fortress” has an advantage that it does not waste by going overboard like some combat porn movies do.  In fact, neither of these movies fits in the combat porn subgenre.  Ironically, the two movies tread similar ground.  Both cover sieges from the losing side.   The Battle of Stalingrad lasted for months and the movie covers the second half of it.  It was such a huge battle that although the movie is excellent in giving the big picture, it is limited to showing the effects on a few men.  “Fortress of War” covers a siege that lasts for days instead of months and takes place in a small area.  It is much more a battle movie than “Stalingrad: Dogs…”  and is able to cover not just individuals, but also groups of soldiers.  Once again, the better movie had moved on.


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