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Saving Leningrad Review

November 13, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Saving Leningrad
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Saving Leningrad Review  

Saving Leningrad Review

Andrey Mironov-Udalov– Kostya
Maria Melnikova– Nastya
Gela Meskhi– Petruchik
Anastasiya Melnikova– Nastya’s mother
Valeriy Degtyar– Sasha, Nastya’s father
Vitaliy Kischenko– Kostya’s father

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Aleksey Kozlov
Screenplay by Aleksey Kozlov

Distributed by All Media Company and Universal Pictures

Not Rated
Runtime– 96 minutes


Saving Leningrad, written and directed by Aleksey Kozlov, is a historical Russian drama about a real life event that happened during World War II, when the city of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) was under siege by the Nazis. With few available resources, the then Soviet government decided to essentially evacuate as many people as it could, both civilian and military, from the city before it was destroyed by Nazi bombers. At the same time, the Russian military sent as many soldiers as it could to take out an advancing Nazi army via brutal ground combat, basically to give the Russian Navy enough time to get people out of Leningrad. Using that backdrop, Saving Leningrad is also a multi-generational love story, featuring both young lovers and an old couple. It’s a fascinating movie, mostly because it’s a World War II movie told from the Russian perspective. American audiences rarely see that kind of World War II story. At the same time, if you don’t know the history ahead of time, the movie’s story probably won’t be as meaningful. I’d imagine that Russian audiences would have a much different reaction to the events depicted than an American or even an international audience. As for the love story aspects of the movie, they’re serviceable, but the performances are rather bland.

Saving Leningrad stars Andrey Mironov-Udalov as Kostya, a brash young Russian soldier that wants to get his girlfriend Nastya (Maria Melnikova) out of harm’s way. Kostya manages to get Nastya on board the ship out of Leningrad, but in the process of getting her onboard, they run into Petruchik (Gela Meskhi), a secret police agent that arrested Nastya’s father for sedition. Petruchik also suspects Nastya of seditious behavior, too, and, as secret police tend to do, sees it as his job to harass her. Petruchik also has a sort of thing for her, as we see in a flashback to the time the secret police raided Nastya’s home. Kostya tries to protect her once he finds out who Petruchik is, but he is given new orders by his father, who is some sort of big deal commander. Kostya is supposed to participate in the ground offensive against the Nazis, but his father instead gets him added to the navy contingent that’s running the evacuation operation. Petruchik figures out fairly quickly what’s going on with Kostya and starts to harass him, too.

Now, while all of that is going on, Nastya’s father (Valeriy Degtyar), who I believe is named Sasha, is let out of prison to go visit his wife (Anastasiya Melnikova) one last time before he is sent to fight the Nazis in the ground offensive. Sasha has no business fighting in the war as he’s some sort of intellectual (he wears glasses and, I assume, is a writer or “subversive” college professor or something like that), but he goes to the front lines anyway. His wife, completely distraught by how she’ll likely never see Sasha again, tries to bury herself in work (she works for the government in some capacity).

The sort of love triangle between Kostya, Nastya, and Petruchik isn’t all that engrossing, at least at first. We’re never really told who Petruchik is or why some people are scared of him (the military isn’t scared of him, but the civilians recognize him and keep their distance). We know he’s a bad guy, constantly wearing leather gloves and protecting his document filled car at all costs (he actually has his car put on the evacuation boat), which is weird, and Meskhi gives Petruchik a menacing disposition, but, really, who the hell is he? This is an example of a plot point likely meaning more to a Russian audience because, I’d suspect, a Russian audience will know who Petruchik is just by looking at him. On top of that, Andrey Mironov-Udalov and Maria Melnikova have no real chemistry to speak of. It’s hard to believe that they’re young lovers who are super-hot for one another. You eventually just accept that they’re lovers but, again, where’s the sizzle between them?

Now, the chemistry between Anastasiya Melnikova and Valeriy Degtyar is very apparent. They only have one scene together but you totally believe that they’re an old, committed couple who have been together forever. Seeing them apart is heart breaking, with Sasha on the battlefield, avoiding bullets and explosions, and his wife back home, hoping against hope that he’ll walk through the front door again. I kind of wish the movie was mostly about these two instead of the young lovers. I understand why director Kozlov went in the direction he went in, as it meshes a little better with the overall evacuation story, but it just isn’t as interesting as the older couple’s story.


The sequences on the battlefield are exceptional. You get a real sense of just how terrible the fight against the Nazis was. Bullets flying by everywhere, bombs and grenades going off, body parts littering the ground, along with gallons of blood. You also get a real sense of the fear the Russian soldiers felt as they battled the Third Reich. Sure, most of the Russians are as badass as they come, but there are some that are terrified of what they have to do and what they’re witnessing before their eyes. Again, it’s all so terrible to see, but it’s what happened.

The ship sequences are also terrific to behold. It looks like director Kozlov used a mix of practical effects/a ship set that was built specifically for the movie/maybe even an old Russian navy ship and some excellent CGI. It all blends together brilliantly and, when the ship hits rough seas and Nazi warplanes attack it, you feel the same things the people on the boat likely felt, mostly fear. How the hell did anyone survive this event?


Outside of the old couple, Gela Meskhi is the standout performance of the movie. Again, the movie doesn’t tell you who he is or what he’s about with any details, but once you figure out that he’s the secret police you start to wonder why he thinks his secret police harassment is the most important thing in the world. Especially when you consider what the hell is happening, with the Nazis approaching. Who cares about whatever it is the secret police think Nastya’s father did? People need to get the hell out of Leningrad. Petruchik could be the focus of multiple stories if someone wanted to do them. I’d watch them.

Saving Leningrad is a movie that I liked but feel as though I would have liked more if I had a better understanding of the actual historical events depicted. As I said, the movie will likely mean more to a Russian audience. And while some of the performances are bland, once the city evacuation kicks into high gear the movie you won’t be able to keep your eyes off the screen. The boat trip, the ground battle, it’s all harrowing stuff. Saving Leningrad is set to get some sort of release in the United States this December, so be on the lookout for it. It’s worth checking out.

See Saving Leningrad. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Hundreds, possibly thousands.

Explosions: Multiple, big and small.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A nifty opening theme, an old watch, a lack of electricity, the Nazis planning their attacks, a dog, boat boarding, multiple Nazi attacks, talk of foot calluses, a flashback, multiple explosions and carnage, mortar hooey, a man holding his own intestines, boot throwing, head shot hooey, grenade hooey, a brutal fist fight in slow motion in a pit of mud, drowning, mild bondage, attempted car sex, a boat captain yelling at his boat, an air attack, exploding luggage, luggage throwing, car hooey, and a sad ending.

Kim Richards?: Considering the story, it probably happened.

Gratuitous: Potatoes and sugar and keys, black and white stock footage of cities being bombed, volleyball, tough guy military bullshit, a grand piano, municipality shit, a car onboard a giant aircraft carrier, an organized hit on the “boat and cheese” crowd, multiple explosions, a boat captain yelling at his boat, people playing their violins while the ship sinks, praying, serious car investigation, multiple men on fire, and a sad final fight.

Best lines: “At your age, going on a trip with a man means a lot,” “Have you forgotten me?,” “Here’s a potato. Put it in your pocket,” “Oh, good, what a terrible day it is!,” “We need to ship people,” “Shut up, cadet!,” “Guys, who took my foot wraps?,” “Boy, I’ll rip your feet off!,” “Do you know everyone like that?,” “Nyet,” “This is a grand piano!,” “Who’s smoking? Stop it!,” “Do you like people to be frightened of you, an alien problem?” “Don’t shit yourself Aundrey,” “Please, get me out of here!,” “Andrey, take off your boots. You’ll have to run fast,” “I’ll shove this watch into your throat, captain’s son,” “Comrades! Don’t panic! Stay where you are!,” “Who was swept overboard?,” “The field marshal won’t get his present,” “Let’s kick off the piano,” “Walter, don’t panic. Everything is okay,” and “Lower the dinghy, Sasha.”

The final score: review Good
The 411
Saving Leningrad, written and directed by Aleksey Kozlov, is a World War II drama told from a Russian perspective, something American audiences don’t necessarily see all that often. While the movie will likely mean more to a Russian audience, Saving Leningrad is worth seeing simply for the filmmaking skill of director Kozlov. From the boat scenes where people are being evacuated to the ground battle against the Nazis, Saving Leningrad has some harrowing sequences that you won’t be able to take your eyes off of, even if you’re not quite sure how to feel about it. I do wish that the leads were a bit more charismatic and that the main “people” story was about an old couple as opposed to the young couple the movie actually focusses on. It’s worth seeing, though. Be sure to check it out when it arrives in the United States this December.