World War II – as its name would suggest – was a pretty big affair. There is no end of inspiration for stories of heroism from all sides during the conflict and throughout history, cinema has used these true stories as inspiration for plethora of films. Battle for Sevastopol provides is the latest global addition to this list. Directed by Serhiy Mokrytskyi, the film provides an account of Lyudmila Pavlichenko: a real life soviet sniper who accumulated 309 confirmed kills during various battles throughout WW2.
It stars Yulia Peresild as Pavlichenko, and follows her through her youth, her wartime heroics and her subsequent touring of the USA to garner support for the war. Each of these aspects of her life could be a story in its own right, and the inclusion of all three in the same movie is unfortunately its downfall. There is nothing wrong with each individual scene, but collectively they somehow seem disjointed and clumsy. Mokrytskyi tries to squeeze in so much drama and so many different events that the movie becomes more a collection of separate scenes than a single cohesive production.
That being said, there are some truly moving sequences, and it is here that Peresild shines. Throughout the movie, as Pavlichenko becomes more and more detached from the barbaric nature of her actions, there will be an occasional glimpse of the effect that the constant fighting, and the expectations of her commanders has on her as a person, and this is where Peresild’s performance really comes to the fore. She is supported throughout by very capable performances from her co-stars, but it is ultimately the strength of her performance which gives Battle for Sevastopol its clout.
As in many other films of this ilk, there is a heavy romantic subplot throughout. The inclusion of this is understandable: it softens the harsh reality of war, and provides a human element amidst all of the inhumanity. However, Battle for Sevastopol doesn’t have one romantic subplot; it has multiple, and this has the unfortunate effect of romantic overkill. It is hard to become emotionally invested with a character when you don’t know if they will be on screen for more than five minutes and – more importantly – it cheapens both Pavlichenko as a character, and the impact that each romance would have on her and in turn, on the audience.
From reading this review, you could be forgiven for thinking that I was not a fan of this film. This is by no means the case. Battle for Sevastopol was interesting, varied, and at times utterly absorbing. The reason for my criticism is because it is so close to being a very good film that unfortunately falls just short. This story is definitely one worth telling, yet by trying to cram so much into its two hour running time, Battle for Sevastopol ultimately fails to deliver on its promise.
Dir: Serhiy Mokrytsky
Cast: Yulia Peresild, Joan Blackham, Yevgeny Tsyganov, Vitaliy Linetskiy
DOP: Yuriy Korol
Prd: Nataliya Mokrytska, Egor Olesov
Music: Evan Galperine
Country: Russia, Ukraine
Run time: 110 mins
Battle for Sevastopol is available on DVD now.