15th Aug2019

‘Saving Leningrad’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Andrey Mironov-Udalov, Maria Melnikova, Anastasiya Melnikova, Gela Meskhi, Pavel Druzhinin, Mariya Kapustinskaya | Written and Directed by Aleksey Kozlov

saving-leningrad-poster

September 1941. In a turn of events young lovebirds Kostya and Nastya find themselves on board of a barge that will evacuate people from sieged Leningrad. At night the barge gets into the storm. When it starts sinking, enemy planes – but not rescuers – are the first to arrive at the scene.

Saving Leningrad is a mixture between Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, with the occasional peculiar Russian political twist thrown in for good rousing measure. The film follows Nastya (Mariya Melnikova) as she and number of Leningrad citizens are transported to haven from the city that was famously under siege for several years by German soldiers.

Director Alexey Kozlov’s film begins in a slow and meandering fashion that is only seemingly baiting its audience to stick around without showcasing any material to keep anyone watching around the thirty-minute mark. Choosing to cement itself more so as a romantic drama than the war epic it purports itself to be via the marketing. Writer-director Kozlov builds upon an intriguing premise that just about keeps the viewer on their toes in regard to engagement. Pandering and pandering until halfway through the films second act before unleashing all levels of hell on screen in an action survival thriller.

However, most of the first act is primarily world-building that solely focuses on character development. Slowly setting the subdued tone for a frenetic second act. The thrills and spills are here in full frantic and graphic effect. The action scenes are entertaining and visually energetic. At times full of rage, and the more intense moments on board the barge with the imminent attack played with a terrific atmosphere.

Saving Leningrad‘s filmmaking qualities are unquestionably effective. That being said, the political underbelly causes an active rift in proceedings that almost dismantles the entire film. The feature never overly enforces a clear antagonist for the viewer to root against. Even when the film is setting such a specific character up with questionable morals and ethics, the film can never truly label such a role as a villain. More so just a problematic figure who is strong-headed and selfish, yet in a moment of seconds forgiven for his actions.

It is an element that feels as if it is catering towards the demand of the overly positive political agenda the film must carry to adhere to forms of censorship or propaganda. This inclusion ultimately derails the emotional climax of the film; such an integration sways impact and tension. Leading an otherwise entertaining movie to a misaligned and hollow consequence of redundant actions. Saving Leningrad goes as far as the said character even given a pat on the back and sent on his merry way by the end of the feature with no consequences explored or found.

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