The production of the film is very impressive with a startlingly convincing display of the giant ruined city. Heaps of rubble, wrecked vehicles, bodies, sewers, and soon a savage winter. Humanizing the Wehrmacht has been a sort of taboo, especially in the US where German soldiers appear on screen all too often just to be shot. Some more films from more daring directors, like Peckinpah's "Cross of Iron" have had the guts to show "the bad guys" as humans caught up in a whirlwind out of their control. And not as the archetype of the "evil army" as the Wehrmacht is often perceived. For instance, there were no SS divisions at this battle, so politically fanatical Nazis are totally absent from this WW2 movie about the German Army... imagine that? To Americans this might come as a surprise. Now don't get all offended, your reading what an American has written.
Secondly, it is not just the dreaded SS that is absent, but also iconography is not shown... or rather it just hasn't been ADDED as in movies like "Enemy at the Gates" have done so and, all too often, to more-than-slightly ridiculous extents. Giant swastikas on evil Nazi trains and imposing red stars on Soviet vehicles and banners... not here. HOWEVER, the Nazi swastika DOES make one key appearance - on the tail fin of a cargo plane, an outbound medical flight, the last plane out of the battleground. Wounded soldiers attempt to board the plane to be deservedly flown to safety, but in the chaos the plane leaves; the swastika leaves. The symbol that these men rallied behind to serve their country abandons them in the one moment when they need something from it. It is not just a scene of "war tragedy," it is outright betrayal. And it came after the most brutal battle in all of history.
Without question one of the best war films of all time. --- 9/10
BsCDb Classification: 13+ -- violence