Battle for Moscow | A stirring tale of World War Two heroism - or slice of Putin propaganda?

Battle for Moscow aka Panfilov's 28
(Image credit: © Arrow Films)

Battle for Moscow aka Panfilov's 28

The legend of Panfilov's 28.

A huge box-office hit in its native Russia, this old-fashioned tale of wartime heroism, Battle for Moscow (aka Panfilov's 28), shows a small group of 28 poorly armed Red Army soldiers holding off a column of Nazi tanks outside Moscow in November 1941.

Historians dismiss this heroic stand as a Soviet propaganda legend, but taken with a pinch of salt the film's depiction of pimply recruits of different ethnicities (including Kazakhs and Kyrgyz) joining forces to defend the Motherland is stirring stuff – and gives a strong sense of the resurgent nationalism in Putin’s Russia.

Russia’s culture minister has rebuked anyone who questions this 'sacred legend' as ‘filthy scum’, but the filmmakers do appear to tacitly acknowledge that elements of the story may have been embellished and embroidered. Indeed, a telling scene comes on the eve of battle when the soldiers swap tales of mythical military feats performed against impossible odds.  Here, Panfilov's 28 join the ranks of the Seven Samurai and the Battle of Thermopylae's 300.

Certificate 12. Runtime 116 mins. Directors Kim Druzhinin, Andrey Shalopa

Battle for Moscow debuts on Sky Cinema Premiere on 20 December. Available on DVD from Arrow Films.

Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.