IN September 1942, Captain Gromov (Petr Fedorov) leads a small troop of Soviet soldiers against the Germans, storming buildings one by one.

The men include sniper Chvanov (Dmitry Lisenkov), who doesn't believe in mercy, and boyish radio operator Sergey (Sergey Bondarchuk).

Having stormed one building, Gromov and four surviving soldiers discover a terrified 18-year-old woman called Katya (Mariya Smolnikova).

Her humanity touches the military men and they become her protectors.

On the other side of the town square, German Captain Kahn (Thomas Kretschmann) is infuriated by his inability to overwhelm Gromov's close-knit team.

He takes out those frustrations on a blonde woman called Masha (Yanina Studilina), who submits to the officer's will.

Sadistic Nazi Colonel Khenze (Heiner Lauterbach) eventually goads Kahn into drastic action, lighting the fuse on an explosive final showdown between the two armies.

Stalingrad replays one of the bloodiest chapters of the Second World War through the eyes of soldiers involved in the stand-off.

Fedor Bondarchuk's epic is an unapologetically patriotic spin on history that papers over the cracks of a lightweight script with stunning visuals, stirring performances and Angelo Badalamenti's heart-tugging score.

Digitally enhanced skirmishes between German and Soviet troops look stunning, bringing home some of the sound and fury of that ill-fated autumn.

The 3D version, available exclusively on Blu-ray, looks spectacular even on a small screen.

Ash flutters down over the embattled city, bullets whizz out of the screen and several pivotal action sequences are breathlessly choreographed to take full advantage of depths in perception.

Directorial brio holds our interest rather than the simplistic narrative.