Panfilovs 28 – A Film Review

One of the issues with not doing very much gaming at the moment is my inability to help out the other members of the writing team here at Breakthrough Assault.
However, I recently caught up with Kim Druzhinn and Andrey Shalopas controversial film Panfilov’s 28 on iTunes (other providers probably available), and whilst it’s not quite Mid War I thought it might be worth raising it’s profile a bit

Released as Battle for Moscow in the UK market, the film started life as a crowdfunded project which wildly overachieved it’s finance target, hoping to raise 300,000 roubles Shalopas production company actually raised 3,000,000 through crowdfunding. Additional funding was made available by the Russian and Kazach Governments.

But why was the film controversial? Well it purports to tell the story of a desperate battle in late November 1941 between soldiers of General Ivan Panfilovs 316th Rifle Divison and tanks of the 11th Panzer Divison near Dubosekovo, in which a heroic last stand by 28 Soviet soldiers turns the tide and saves Moscow from the advancing Nazis

The battle was first reported in in the Red Army’s newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda and along with other heroic moments of the Great Patriotic War was immortalised in Soviet folklore. The 316th Divison contained many soldiers from Soviet Central Asia, and a square in Almaty (capital of the now independent Kazachstan) is called the Square of the 28 Guardsmen

Square of the 28 Guardsmen – Almaty

At Dubosekovo itself huge Soviet soldiers dominate the landscape 

Panfilovs 28 syand guard at Dubosekovo

The honorific of Guardsmen is appropriate as on November 18th 1941 the 316th became the 8th Guards Rifle Divison.

So what’s the controversy?  Well, it almost certainly didn’t happen in the way that Krasnaya Zvezda reported it, and the films release created quite a stir among politicians and historians in Russia, there were some who criticised it’s slavish adherence to the Soviet myth and others who praised it for showing the dogged determination of the Red Army

The film is actually pretty good, it’s told largely from the Soldiers point of view, General Panfilov has only fleeting appearances.

The film starts with the Company commander instructing his men how to assault tanks with makeshift anti-tank grenades and Molotov cocktails using a wooden replica that he instructs the soldiers to make. As they move to the front, the film concentrates on the role of Commissar Vassily Klochkov (played by Alexsey Morozov, who only appeared on set on the first day of filming). The Company digs false positions and constructs dummy guns to fool the soon to arrive Germans.

Using models rather than CGI the film depicts the advance of the German tanks (mostly short barrelled Pzkfw IIIs and Pzkfw IVs), and the slow attrition of the Soviet troops and their supporting heavy weapons (some Maxim HMGs and a battery of 45mm guns). The combat scenes are gritty and realistic, and whilst the dwindling band of Soviets is shown as heroic they are clearly not supermen. One by one the Guardsmen are killed or wounded as they repulse a number of German attacks. 

The film ends with footage of the Soviet era memorials and a list of people who crowdfunded the production; this does make the end credits quite long!

Now, many people know I’m a bit of a stickler for historical accuracy, so why did I like the film so much?
Whilst it’s no longer depicting an actual event, there was almost certainly no last stand of 28 soldiers on the Moscow Highway on that day,, it does depict very well the dogged determination of the Red Army, that along with the weather, did finally bring the Nazi war machine to a halt short of Moscow.
It’s a depiction of the frustration of taking on tanks with nothing much better than a PTRD anti tank rifle and some Molotov cocktails, and at the end the good guys win. It’s no more a travesty of history that Enemy at the Gate is.

Whilst it’s clearly set in the Early War period of Flames, much of the kit is recognisable from the new Mid War releases, it seeks to dent the oft held western view that the Soviet victory was all about mass attacks and weight of numbers and it’s available on iTunes for less than a tenner – it won’t appeal to everyone, but it hit the spot for me

Category: Flames of War

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4 comments

  1. I bought a copy of it a Historicon last year and have watched it at least a dozen times. Very realistic combat action. Worth every penny!

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Article by: Richard Hardy