- Adaptation Displacement: Much more well known than the novella it's based on, especially in the West.
- Awesome Moments: Sotnikov gets a few due to his sheer, unbending defiance in the face of the Nazis.
- The interrogation scene. Sotnikov refuses to sell out his comrades, contemptuously rejects Portnov's attempt at a Breaking Speech, and calls Portnov "human scum" to his face. Portnov has a Torture Technician come in and brand him, and even though he passes out from the pain he doesn't crack, and as soon as he wakes up he fixes Portnov with such a brutal Death Glare that Portnov can't look him in the eye and orders him to be taken away.
- Later, Sotnikov makes one last ditch attempt to save the lives of the other prisoners by offering himself up to be executed while absolving them. Portnov is unmoved by his plea, but Sotnikov does get the chance to tell him "I wish I killed more of you bastards" before he's hauled off to the gallows.
- Awesome Music: The soundtrack is understated but beautiful. Special mention goes to the mournful song that plays as Rybak and Sotnikov are first hauled into the POW camp.
- Ho Yay: There's quite a bit of physical affection between the male leads, mostly on Rybak's end. To be fair, most of it is in the context of Rybak trying to keep Sotnikov from freezing or bleeding to death with what little means he has.
- Signature Scene: Sotnikov's suicide attempt in the snow near the beginning of the film. It's on the cover for the Criterion Collection version of the film, and is one of the first things that comes up if you Google the film.
- Spiritual Antithesis: To Come and See, another Soviet war film focusing on Belarusian partisans. While Come and See is a brutal, uncompromising portrayal of the absolute worst crimes of the Nazi occupation shown through the eyes of a Child Soldier, The Ascent is a slower, subtler, more spiritual film showing the personal ordeal of two older enlisted men. Elem Klimov, the director of Come and See, was in fact married to Larisa Shepitko at the time this film was made, and doubtlessly drew great inspiration from it.
- Tear Jerker: The execution of Sotnikov, Demchikha, Basya, and the headman at the end.
YMMV / The Ascent