Here is the situation in Siberia: At the beginning of World War II, while Stalin and Hitler were still honoring their non-aggression pact, Germans and Russians were co-existing in a remote labor camp. Eventually, Stalin sends his thugs to oust the Germans and declare the Russian inhabitants to be collaborators. At this point the film opens with a young girl running for her life. Four years later, the fighting is over and a Soviet war hero has arrived to work on the town's steam engine. The only Germans left are the illegitimate child of one of the Russian women . . . and don't forget that running girl.
I found myself missing some of the subtitles because I could not take my eyes of the compelling characters and the actors who play them. The standouts are Vladimir Mashkov as the hero and Anjorka Strechel and Yulia Peresild as the women who love/hate him. But his true passion is the steam engine, which he races through the snowy Siberian woods.
The steam locomotive chase sequences are the best put on film since Buster Keaton spectacularly crashed a Union train into Oregon's Rock River in The General (1927). It's as though director Uchitel is rebuilding the train and the bridge Keaton destroyed eight decades ago and a half a world away.
Unlike Keaton's masterpiece, which should have won an Oscar in 1927, this film is Russia's entry into the 2010 Best Foreign Film Oscar competition.