Having broken box-office records overseas, T-34 transports the viewer into the heard of Russia during the Second World War. Having been captured in the field of battle, young lieutenant Ivushkin (Alexander Petrov) is tasked to assemble a group of POWs to aid in training the Nazis tank battalion. However, as they prepare for the exercise, the team devises a daring plan to escape from captivity. With the power of a half-destroyed T-34 tank, Ivushkin and his crew attempt to break free from captivity and escape across the border, if they can make it alive.
Written and directed by Alexey Sidorov, T-34 is inspired by true events during the Second World War (though what those events are isn’t entirely clear). High on action and suspense, T-34 proves to be an entertaining addition to the ‘war film’ genre. (Interestingly, apparently ‘WW-II tank movies’ are quite the rage in Russia these days, having released three films of the genre since 2012.) Rather than forcing this story into the grander narrative of the war itself, T-34 wisely focuses its lens on a small scale, allowing the journey of this band of survivors to take front and centre. Without question, this is a film designed to entertain and, for the most part, it does so effectively. While light on character development, each of the crew members get their ‘moment’ to prove their dedication to the cause. Bullet-time’ special effects give the film a modern feel while still maintaining the urgency of the war itself for those who still remember ‘the Great Patriotic War’. (Ironically, this is also a film that remains relatively light on politics, barely mentioning larger, more controversial ideas such as the ‘Red Army’ or ‘Stalin’.)
Like many other films of this genre, T-34 highlights the veterans who were courageous enough to stand up against the oppression of the Nazi party in the face of insurmountable odds. At a time when Russia isn’t always held in the highest of esteem in the West, T-34 reminds the viewer of their sacrifice in the war effort as well. Like the other members of the Allies, Russian men and women faced certain death at the hands of their Nazi dictators and were persecuted for standing up against tyranny. While there is little question that this is a ‘pro-war’ film, it still highlights the devastation that was caused by those who sought to keep their own freedom—not to mention that of others—alive. (In fact, one of the most beautiful moments in the film stems from a short time of play in a nearby lake. In this poignant scene, the film manages to underscore the utter beauty of freedom in the face of persecution.)
By the end, T-34 proves to be an entertaining ride that keeps the viewer engaged throughout. By focusing on the journey of its heroes as opposed to the politics, the film translates well for Western audiences and deserves our attention.
T-34 rolled onto video and on demand on June 11th, 2019.