If you are interested in WWII tank films, you have very likely watched Fury by now. It is a technical masterpiece of material authenticity, right down to the genuine Tiger used in several scenes – no doubt about it. Unfortunately, it’s hampered by a literally ludicrous ending, in which an entire battalion of veteran Waffen-SS are unable to stop throwing themselves into machine gun fire long enough to destroy a single immobile Sherman with a Panzerfaust. Really? I’m happy to suspend disbelief when appropriate (as we will get to with White Tiger), but Fury can’t decide if it is a a gritty uber-realistic film or a goofy heroes-wiping-out-waves-of-baddies flick.
If you came out of the theater with this sort of feeling as well – or if you just enjoy good tank movies – I would suggest one you probably haven’t heard of: White Tiger (Belyy Tigr).
Hollywood, of course, produces movies as consumer products. Calculate what should net the most sales by picking the right starring names, storyline, plot elements, and so on. It’s a great formula for making lots of money. It’s not so great at producing film for the sake of film. For that, it is often better to turn to places like Russia and China (remember Assembly?).
White Tiger is a surrealistic story of World War II in the East – don’t come into it expecting hardcore realism. The main character is a tanker who was basically charbroiled when his T34 was knocked out by a mysterious white Tiger that appears in seemingly-impossible places, destroys a slew of Soviet vehicles, and then disappears. To the disbelief of his doctors, the man survives his burns and heals completely. He has become seemingly impervious to harm as a result of his encounter with the Tiger, at the cost of his memory. He can remember nothing about his past or identity, but instead finds himself hearing tanks speak to him.
This mysterious Tiger continues to appear and wreak havoc, and a General orders the construction of a specially improved T34 to be crewed by the best men available with the specific mission of destroying the Tiger. The protagonist is chosen as driver/commander of the vehicle, and sets about finding and engaging an opponent that most rational officers don’t believe in.
The T34 tanks in the film are genuine, not surprisingly, but the Tiger is a built-up prop vehicle. It is reasonably well done, although not up to the standards of American films like Saving Private Ryan or Fury. But fanatical realism isn’t the point here – this film is a story and an allegory, not a special effects joyride. What is the White Tiger, and what is our driver’s connection to it? If you are looking for a war movie that requires more thinking that the typical Hollywood affair, I highly recommend this one.
It is, of course, in Russian – but you can order it on Amazon with English subtitles:
Here’s the Russian trailer: