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Film / Fortress of War

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"Fortress calling...we are engaged in fighting."

Fortress of War, aka The Brest Fortress, is 2010 film that was a co-production between Russia and Belarus.

It is an account of the siege of Brest at the very beginning of World War II. Brest was an old brick fort on the River Bug on the frontier between Russia and Germany.note  On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany invades the Soviet Union. Like everyone else in Russia the soldiers defending Brest are caught by surprise, and they are unable to stop the Germans from entering the gate. However, those soldiers who survive the initial bombardment fight back, while trying desperately to protect the women and children trapped with them inside the fort. Soon they find out that they are far behind enemy lines. A grim, desperate siege follows.


Main characters include Lt. Andrey Kizhevatov, who has a wife and three children in the fort; Yefim Fomin, a Red Army commissar who finds on June 21 that his wife and kids were unable to join him because the train is full of Germans leaving the country; and Major Pyotr Gavrilov, who is desperately worried about the rumors of an impending German attack and begs his superiors to at least get the civilians out of the fort. All this is observed by Alexander "Sasha" Akimov, a 14-year-old orphan who is serving with the Soviet garrison as a tuba player in the regimental band.



  • Abandoned Area: The film opens with a scene showing the wrecked, abandoned fort covered in snow, before jumping back to the previous June and the start of the war.
  • Bittersweet Ending: All of the characters die except for Sasha and Pyotr; that includes all the civilians, women and children. And Pyotr gets exiled to Siberia after the war. But Sasha does survive, the Soviet Union wins the war at terrible cost, and the last scene shows him visiting the Brest monument with his grandson.
  • Call-Back: Andrey is shown in an early scene struggling to lasso his kids as the family poses for a photo. At the end he takes the photo out and looks at it right before he's killed.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: The night before the main attack a squadron of German soldiers in Red Army uniform infiltrate Soviet territory in order to perform sabotage work. Also, an officer in the fortress giving out orders that would weaken the defense turns out to be a German in disguise; he's caught and shot.
  • Dutch Angle: An overhead shot of Sasha walking across the bridge has the camera pivot as he walks under it, and continue to pivot as he passes until it is showing Sasha upside down as he walks away.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Maybe it doesn't count in a movie where almost all the soldiers are killed? But Fomin pulls out a photo of his wife and child early in the film, and he is executed by the Germans. Kizhevatov is shown posing for a picture with his family on June 21; he takes out the picture and looks at it again at the end of the film, the instant before he's killed by a German grenade.
  • Hope Spot: The men in the fortress see a Soviet plane overhead and think that help is on the way. The plane is shot down and the pilot bails out directly into the fort. He proceeds to tell them that they are stuck far behind enemy lines, the Red Army is in headlong retreat, and the Germans are almost all the way to Minsk.
  • How We Got Here: The first scene shows the ruined fort in the dead of winter before jumping back to June 21, 1941.
  • Human Shield: The Germans try to force their way across the bridge by using women, children, and the people from the hospital as human shields. Fomin approaches the bridge as if he's surrendering, then screams "GET DOWN!" The Russian civilians duck and the soldiers barricaded in the building behind them open fire.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Early in the movie Fomin is writing his wife a letter in which he says "There will not be a war."
  • Lawful Stupid: When the soldiers of the garrison go to get their rifles after the first German bombing raid, they have to force their way past a guard at the armory who refuses to unlock the weapons without an order from an officer.
  • Man on Fire: Not one, not two, but three times. One burning soldier staggers out of a barracks after the initial German bombing raid. A burning German soldier crawls out of a wrecked tank. And another Man On Fire comes out of a building in the fortress after German soldiers are using flamethrowers to force them out.
  • Mercy Kill: One Red Army soldier stops and shoots a horribly wounded, flailing horse.
  • Narrator: Occasional narration from the elderly Sasha, sharing his memories of the terrifying siege.
  • Overly-Nervous Flop Sweat: The station master at the train station early in the film is nervously mopping flop sweat from his bald pate. He is frantically trying to manage the busy train traffic—namely, trains full of Germans leaving the Soviet Union.
  • The Siege: The grueling seven-day siege of Brest. The Germans thought they'd take it in half a day, but they are held up for a week and suffer tremendous casualties and eventually have to call in the Luftwaffe to bomb the Soviets into submission.
  • Stuka Scream: Stukas, making their terrifying whistle as they dive to bomb the garrison of Brest.
  • Taking the Bullet: Sasha is talking to a badly wounded soldier when a German throws a grenade right between them. The soldier rolls over on top of the grenade to save Sasha.
  • Taking You with Me: Nikolai, captured by the Germans, is forced by an officer to strip the hammer-and-sickle pins from the dead Russian soldiers in the building. He comes across the corpse of his girlfriend, who was raped by the Germans. Next he finds a grenade. He pulls the pin from the grenade and gives it to the officer, killing them both.