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The Soviet army breaks through the Finnish defences on the Karelian Isthmus in June 1944, advancing with overwhelming force. Somehow, the Finnish troops must find the strength to fight back, with all odds against them. The Battle of Tali-Ihantala was the largest battle ever fought in the history of the Nordic countries. This film depicts the true events through five separate stories. Written by
Tali-Ihantala 1944 isn't an ordinary movie in any sense, really. There's no continuation with the characters, as the movie is basically split into several parts, between which there is no direct correlation or continuation. The parts are only woven together lightly by some "narrative" cut-scenes between them, explaining some of the major movements and events in the battles, but even so most of the time the events portrayed don't really tie in to the "large scale events" explained by the cut-scenes.
As the different parts have different characters each time, there's no character development or any major social interaction. For a large part, the actors aren't really top notch either - an unfortunate side effect of this being a Finnish film, as there simply aren't many good Finnish actors. But it has to be said that there's not even that much "real" acting to be done the way this film is made.
The main feature of the movie is the documentary-like battle scenes. The events depicted are based on real occurrences during the Tali-Ihantala battles, taken from various sources.
Of particular interest to WW2 "hardware" buffs is the part about the Finnish Armored forces. It features many authentic WW2 armored vehicles. The depicted T-34 tanks are all authentic, and so are the StuG III G assault guns. That aside, the KV tanks shown are mock-ups if memory serves, since while the real KVs that took part in those events still exist in a museum, they are not in a running condition. There's some other details not spot on as well, but that's a topic for another time.
One thing to note is that it's obvious the movie makers didn't have access to all that many tanks, as it can clearly be seen the same tanks are reused to portray tanks on both sides. It's not a big issue given the authenticity of the tanks to begin with though, and someone not more familiar with it all probably wouldn't even notice.
Most of the other battle scenes are infantry-related, which comes as no surprise since not only are they the easiest and cheapest to make, but also because infantry was the main feature of the Finnish army, since armored and air forces were very limited in size. These infantry scenes are decently made, even if nothing spectacular. Still, for many battles I ended up wishing for more sheer manpower on the screen, both for the visuals of it as well as historical accuracy.
Overall it's clear this isn't a huge-budget production. The whole film was funded in a rather unconventional fashion to make it possible to begin with. It also has to be said that indeed for the Average Joe this movie might not offer much, but for war buffs it should certainly be worth watching. Even for the average viewer, perhaps more names and details would've helped with immersing into the events more, and for war buffs this could've helped with finding more information on the depicted events.
It's a mixed review, I know (it's my first), so to summarize I'll just say that even with the budget-imposed limitations and often less than stellar acting, it was well worth watching for someone familiar with the events and with a keen interest on the whole war era, and I'll certainly buy the DVD as well, hopefully soon. For those with no real interest in war history and somewhat plain depiction of events however, it's probably best to look elsewhere, or at least make sure you know what to expect.
I'll add as an afterthought that I would have wished for a depiction of the Finnish Air Force's operations, but sadly it was not really possible with the film's style and budget (even the small part about the German flight group Kuhlmey is rather crude). The FAF's part and actions in the war are not very widely known even within Finland, so they'd deserve some publicity.
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