The Admiral Review

Noel Megahey reviews Andrei Kravchuk’s depiction of the Russian Revolution as an epic romance.

Made to celebrate the Centenary of Russian Cinema, Andrei Kravchuk’s Russian Revolution epic is appropriately classical in its nature, interweaving spectacular scenes of war, historical drama and a doomed love affair on the grand scale, sticking closely to real-life events, but inevitably in a highly romanticised form.

The Admiral covers the period of the immediate years leading up to the Russian Revolution and the part played in those events by Admiral Kolchak (Konstantin Khabenskiy). His heroic exploits and rise in the ranks are witnessed from his time as a naval officer on the Glory, laying mines and valiantly fighting German forces in the Baltic Sea in 1916 through to his appointment as Supreme Commander of the White Russian Army resisting the advances of the Bolsheviks through Siberia. The film rattles through historical events with striking cinematography and impressive battle sequences that are merciful concise, but much of it only really serves as a backdrop for the romance that develops between the Admiral and Anna Timireva (Elizaveta Boyarskaya), the wife of his officer colleague Sergei Timireva, history ironically placing the former friends on opposing sides of the White/Red divide.

Attempting to put a human face and cost onto dry historical events, the model for The Admiral in this respect is clearly War and Peace, and as a celebration of Russian cinema, the film finds a neat framing device for the events of 1916-1920 by placing them in the context of the 1964 shooting of Bondarchuk’s film version of Tolstoy’s masterpiece (the director played in a cameo by his own son). Classically structured and conventionally filmed, The Admiral is nonetheless impressive with its high production values (notwithstanding the evident CGI work) and spectacular battle sequences overlaid with the romantic declarations between Anna Vasilievna and Alexander Vasilievich and a huge sweeping score, but it’s all much too cool and polished (and for a supposed epic at least an hour too short) to illuminate any real underlying humanity to the historical period and personalities involved.

The Disc: Momentum’s give the film an appropriately impressive transfer on DVD, the 2.35:1 transfer anamorphically enhanced for widescreen and progressively encoded. The image is sharp, showing good detail and no evident flaws, although contrast appears slightly boosted and reds are perhaps overly warm. Stereo and 5.1 audio tracks are included and are loud and clear, but perhaps a little bright. English subtitles are optional and in a white font, but slightly on the large side, and half in-half out of the image frame. Extra features consist only of a Trailer.


Updated: Sep 11, 2009

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