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Film / T-34

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"Crew..... prepare for action."
Nikolay Ivushkin
Russian Bias: The Movie

T-34 (2018) is a Russian war movie directed by Aleksey Sidorov.

In the months following the opening stages of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, a lone T-34-76 crew lead by junior tank commander Nikolay Ivushkin (Alexander Petrov) is assigned to a small detachment of Soviet infantry to slow the German onslaught at the outskirts of Moscow. Finding themselves outnumbered and outgunned, the Russians lay in ambush against a German Panzer battalion lead by a cunning SS officer, Klaus Jäger (Vinzenz Kiefer). In the aftermath of the vicious tank battle, Nikolay is wounded by an equally-battered Klaus and is eventually captured by the Germans.

Fast forward to late 1944, a promoted Klaus is assigned by the German High Command to produce a tank-training program to help repel the Russian advance in the East. Seeing potential in using experienced Russian tankers to help teach the enemy's tactics to their newer Panzer cadets, he finds a mugshot of a familiar face and eventually discovers Nikolay in a POW camp. Nikolay reluctantly agrees to help the German officer and is forced to assemble a crew to repair and operate a newer model of their previous tank, a T-34-85 recently captured from the front. Seeing an opportunity to escape, Nikolay hatches a daring plan with his new crew, alongside the camp's resident translator inmate, Anya Yartseva, but pulling off the prison break of a lifetime under the watchful eyes of the Nazis isn't going to be as easy as it sounds......



  • Ace Custom: Averted with the Soviet crew who operate relatively normal T-34 tanks. Klaus' Panther has an experimental Sperber FG 1250 infra-red nightvision device installed on his commander's cupola that he uses to spot and engage the T-34-85 during the night battle in the town.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The most poignant one being long after their explosive prison break and far from immediate danger, the crew take a break in the forest at night while Stepan sings a Russian ode around their campfire.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Nightvison equipment in World War II? Very real, available technology that had been in deep consideration from both sides for military purposes.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Klaus visits an imprisoned Nikolay with the proposition to have the latter train German tank crews. The latter initially refuses, so the former pulls out his pistol and takes aim.... at the innocent inmate translator Anya and starts counting down to five. Nikolay eventually relents.
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  • Arrow Cam: Quite a few scenes are of the camera tracking cannon projectiles in slow-mo. There is a notable reverse Arrow Cam shot in one instance: the camera tracks the flight path from a tank that had just got hit, through the interior of the other tank that got hit before returning to its source.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: A necessity for tankers on both sides. The Germans in the opening battle note that their early-war tank guns are unable to penetrate the T-34-76, at least from the front which forces them to try and flank it. Later in the movie when the Russians acquire the improved T-34-85, they too are acutely aware that their upgraded cannon is still unable to go head-on against the German Panthers, so they get very creative with what little shells they have.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Despite being a self-professed newbie officer, one look at his new crew's tank and Nikolay manages to point out their flaws but also acknowledge all of their good maintenance habits. And that's not even going into his skills as an armoured officer.
  • Badass Driver: Stepan Vasilyonok, the grouchy but boisterous tank driver who had survived the battle at the Eastern Front and is eventually reunited with his commander, Nikolay. Despite spending years in captivity, his skill behind the tank levers and toolkits has not dulled one bit.
  • Big Damn Heroes: A bloodied, but still alive Volchok mans an uncrewed Panther's gun and manages to shoot the second-last tank that had a kill-shot lined up on their T-34-85.
  • Bring It: Klaus' response to Nikolay accepting his challenge is to lightly taunt him with an outstretched hands gesture.
  • Bullet Time: A good amount of slow-mo sequences happen throughout the movie, with very gratuitous shots of tank shells flying through the air and often ricocheting off tank armour.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Very few German civilians would even think to lift a finger against a couple of escaped Russian prisoners who happen to be driving a fully-functioning T-34-85 tank. This aids the crew in refuelling and restocking their tank much quicker during their time behind enemy lines.
  • Consummate Professional: During a meeting between Heinz Guderian, Hiedrich Himmler and Klaus Jäger, Himmler asks the latter if he hates the Russians. His reply suggests a very neutral stance on the matter.
    Klaus: I am a soldier. I consider sentiment futile. My duty is to serve the Fatherland.
  • Cool Plane: The Germans deploy a Fieseler Fi 156 "Storch" recon plane to help locate the escaping T-34-85 tank.
  • Deadpan Snarker: An unimpressed Guderian gets very snarky when they're told that the rogue T-34 has somehow magically disappeared. He sarcastically suggests to Klaus in consulting a psychic as well as the entire services of the Ahnenerbe note  to help locate their missing enemy.
  • Disney Villain Death: Klaus goes off the edge of a bridge, his Panther tank flipping over his plummeting body, presumably crushing him to his death when they hit the river.
  • Dope Slap: Klaus gives one to his gunner's head when the latter fails to hit a critical shot in the town battle.
  • Due to the Dead: The Soviet tankers are respectfully allowed by their German captors to bury the deceased tankers they found in the captured T-34-85. They take full advantage of this by smuggling six live shells in the body bags and bury them near the staging point for future use.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Nikolay Ivushkin shows excellent judgement and observation skills when he manages to outrun a Panzer III's cannon by driving towards it, taking their turret traversal speed into account as well as later dodging its fire by estimating the timing between its loading and aiming, all while driving a regular Soviet Army truck.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Klaus accepts his defeat in the last battle, all with a calm expression on his face as he falls alongside his Panther into the gorge.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The Germans somehow managed to remove all visible ammunition from the captured T-34-85, but somehow missed six unused 85 mm shells and grenades from underneath the corpses of the dead crew. You'd think they would have made sure of this before handing a perfectly-serviceable tank over to the Russian crew.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: In the first battle, Klaus' Panzer III gets penetrated by the T-34's shell and wounds everyone in it. Klaus has to yell at a hysterical Wolff to get him back on the gun despite his injuries.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Nikolay and Anya consummate their relationship by having a tryst under the stars right before the final battle.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Post-timeskip, Klaus still has several bright gashes on his face that he acquired three years earlier, courtesy of shrapnel from a 76 mm shell. The T-34 crew also have their fair share of battle scars along with fresh bruising from their time in captivity and constant mistreatment.
  • Graceful Loser: A defeated Klaus takes the helping hand of Nikolay.... only to shake it and give him a last nod of acceptance, before finally letting go and falling with his dead crew and tank.
  • Great Escape: The Russian crew plan an audacious one involving a tank.
  • Historical Domain Character: Appearing in a war meeting is Reichsführer Hiedrich Himmler a.k.a Adolf Hitler's second-in-command, while renowned Panzer General Heinz Guderian is portrayed as Jäger's superior, tasked with supervising the latter's new training program.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: The T-34-85 intended to be used as a punching bag/training tool for the benefit of future German tanker cadets instead becomes a shining beacon of hope for the imprisoned tankers in which they use to escape captivity.
  • Hollywood Tactics: When hunting for the T-34-85, numerous scenes show at least an entire company of SS soldiers supported with tanks, armoured cars and roadblocks were all deployed; a realistically reasonable response to a rogue tank within friendly lines. Even air recon was present to help pinpoint the Russians position. However, during the German ambush in the town, only the tanks are present, negating their numerical advantage as well as a tank's crippling weakness in urban combat: anti-tank infantry which are nowhere to be found.
  • Insert Grenade Here: During the town battle, Volchok armed with only a single grenade manages to sneak up to an exposed tank commander and briefly struggle with him before managing to drop it into the open hatch.
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet: Right before the Germans enter the village of Nefedovo, Klaus orders the armor column to halt and takes off his headset to hear.... nothing. Not even dogs barking, which clues him in that something wasn't right.
  • Noble Demon: Standartenführer Klaus Jäger may be a Nazi officer, but he is very courteous to his enemies and has a sense of honor and fair play.
  • No Indoor Voice: Justified. The interior of a running tank is loud and so the crew are always hollering over one another whenever they're in action.
  • Not So Different: Both Klaus and Nikolay are The Ace of their respective factions, who are A Father to His Men and are loyal to their country. Klaus even tries to invoke this by bringing up the fact that their names are practically the same (Klaus, presumably short-form of 'Nicolaus' = 'Nikolay').
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When the German observers realised that their 'target practice' Soviet tankers are now somehow in possession of live shells during the training exercise.
    • The German officers have this collective reaction when Klaus spots the-now-rogue T-34-85 tank emerging from the forest right in front of their observation post, cannon pointed directly at them.
    • The German citizenry's reactions to an enemy T-34 tank rolling down their streets with impunity.
    • Nikolay when he spot the glint of an 88 mm anti-aircraft cannon down the road they were travelling on.
  • One-Hit Polykill: In the opening battle, Nikolay manages to kill a Panzer II and the Panzer III behind it with his opening shot, combined with gratuitous slow-mo.
  • Police are Useless: A local policeman quickly surrenders his service bolt-action rifle to the tankers when they roll into the German town. Very justified; there's really not much you can do with a puny rifle when you're staring down the barrel of a 85 mm cannon.
  • P.O.W. Camp: The second act of the movie sees the Russian characters being transferred to one within German territory.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: During the start of the German wargames against the T-34-85, the Battle of the Bulge movie's rendition of Panzerlied can be heard blaring in the background. Erika can also be heard playing in the background of the German town when the T-34-85 stops by.
  • Ramming Always Works: How a T-34-85 tank with broken tracks, but still barrelling forwards at full speed takes out a Panther, by ramming it to the edge of the bridge.
  • Robbing the Dead: Invoked. The Soviet crew smuggle live 85 mm shells in the bodybags of the former T-34-85 crew and buries them along with their corpses at the staging area under the noses of the Germans. When they later dig up the graves to retrieve the goods, they solemnly apologise to the corpses and swear to take vengeance in their steed.
  • Run for the Border: The endgame of the prison escape was to go past the Czechoslovakian border in the hopes of rejoining friendly lines. How they would have known that the Soviets had reclaimed that territory by 1944 while in captivity is uncertain; it is possible they were going only by rumours amongst recently-captured prisoners or the knowledge that the recently acquired T-34-85 is at least 3 days away from the frontlines.
  • Sherlock Scan: The Russians realise they're driving into a trap when Nikolay notices an abandoned baby pram with an suitcase inside at the side of the road, concluding that the citizens of the town must have been evacuated for an upcoming ambush.
  • Steel Eardrums: Averted. Even shells ricocheting off the tank's armour temporarily deafens the crew and impacts their performance during battle. In the final battle, Serafim's ears are seen bleeding after they blew up an enemy tank at point blank range.
  • Tactful Translation: While giving a friendly toast to one another, Nikolay curses to Klaus in Russian, "May your liver crack in half". Anya, the interpreter politely translates it to Klaus as, "A long and happy life to you".
  • Tank Goodness: The titular T-34 tanks that the Soviet protagonists pilot being pitted against their evil (but no less awesome) German counterparts, the Panzer IIIs, Klaus' Panzer III and later the Panthers. Many of the tanks are either very good mockups or genuine wartime-produced tanks such as the Russian T-34s, a testament to their legendary durability far exceeding their intended service life.
  • Tested on Humans: There is a scene in the concentration camp where inmates are forced to put on sample boots of varying quality and run on a rocky track in circles till they drop from sheer exhaustion, just to test the durability and comfort of shoes. Truth in Television, unfortunately.
  • Throwing Down the Gauntlet: After losing all his other tanks in the climax of the town battle, Klaus challenges the Russian crew to a fair fight by actually throwing one of his tanker gloves down. Nikolay graciously accepts.
  • Time-Passage Beard: Inverted. Klaus sports a Beard of Evil during the scenes in 1941, but by 1944 he is clean shaven. Justified for twofold reasons; he may have grown one to combat the cold temperatures of the Moscow winter as well as taking advantage of lax grooming standards deep in the frontlines. In the later parts of the story he is a high-ranking officer within administrative reach of the higher ups. His scarring may have also halted facial hair growth as well.
  • Time Skip: The opening battle takes place during the Battle of Moscow, late-1941. After that the film skips three years to mid-1944 long after the Russian crew were captured and transferred to a POW camp in Germany.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The conscript who was rooted to the spot after seeing several Panzers aiming their turrets at his position. His commander barely manages to pull him away from their dummy cannon as the tanks open up with high explosives.
  • Villain Ball: The Germans hold on to it big time, when they somehow allowed prisoners-of-war free reign over the maintenance of a recently captured tank, especially when they neglected to at least search the vehicle thoroughly before handing it over to them. This allows the Soviet crew to discover six working tank shells and then smuggle them out by burying them with their now-deceased former crew, enabling them to hatch a daring escape plan afterwards.
  • Villain Respect: Klaus has a very high opinion of Nikolay and his tank-commanding skills after nearly getting killed in the Battle of Moscow. Even after the crew escape from captivity, he remains very cordial in his attempts to recapture or eliminate the Russians and treats it more like a challenge than a duty.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The end of the film shows the eventual fates of the surviving tankers.
  • Worthy Opponent: Both Nikolay and Klaus view one another as this by the end of the movie.


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