The Edge

 (Край; 2010)

by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The setting of this Russian film is the remotest section of Siberia in 1945, just after the end of World War II. There are a few dozen people living together in a labor camp on the edge of nowhere. Because of a state-approved German/Russian co-operation in earlier times, the central government is half convinced that the people in the camp were German collaborators and, at any rate, post-war Moscow has more important priorities than this tiny encampment on the border of hell, so the people in the camp have basically created their own societal organization. There is an officer in charge, at least theoretically, but he has a weak will and a missing arm, so he just doesn't care what happens as long as he is personally comfortable. People obey him only when they feel like it, so the situation is not far from anarchy. Into the camp comes Ignat, a battle-hardened sergeant who specializes in the maintenance of locomotives. Ignat suffered some physical and psychological damage when we was fighting at the front, so he has some problems of his own, but he does understand and love trains - loves fixin' 'em, loves drivin' em, you name it. The officer tells Ignat that he's now number two in command, but Ignat is not impressed with the dumpy camp at all, and is the tougher of the two guys, so he says he'll just keep moving on. The officer responds that Ignat has to stay, not because it's an order, but because there's nowhere else to go. To go back is to face court martial and/or hard work, and there's no going forward because the railroad tracks end a few miles down the line.

In spite of those facts, Ignat soon finds someplace to go. The railroad line ends at a large body of water, but it did not always stop there. Beyond that is a partially damaged bridge which used to lead to an enormous island. It seems that the island was once used as a joint German/Russian logging camp which was supposed to be a model of international co-operation when Stalin and Hitler were still buddies. The railroad bridge had been used to bring the timber from the island back to the mainland. When Germany broke the non-aggression pact, all hell broke loose, things got ugly, the bridge got damaged, and a locomotive got abandoned on the island. When Ignat finds out about the island's history, he knows it may be his personal heaven. Given the lack of authority in this outback location, if he can get to the island, repair the train, and patch up the bridge, he can actually have his own personal locomotive. And he does love him some trains! Of course, even if he can make it to the island, people believe that some armed Germans are still living there.

The rest of the plot is for you to discover.

This is an outstanding film, one of the best in recent years. It is dazzlingly original in concept and execution, the cinematography is both spectacular and inventive, and the film is just ... big. The themes are larger than life, the orchestral score is majestic, the locations are spectacularly rugged, the action scenes are epic in scope, and the ideas are important. But the film is not self-important. It's filled with curious local color and plenty of humor. It has a little bit of everything. There's a crazy Russian man and a young German girl working together to build a makeshift bridge over some raging water, and then driving a locomotive at top speed hoping to reach the undamaged portion of the bridge before their jury-rigged trestle can collapse. There is the romance of the mighty steam engines: two dramatic locomotive races, one in good weather and one in the snow, plus a locomotive test of strength with two of the giant engines pushing face-to-face. There's a gigantic "immortal" bear who seems to be everywhere. There are fascinating characters, all of them unique, colorful, and slightly damaged - sometimes more than "slightly." Best of all, in comparison to many other Russian epics, it is not suffused with fatalism, and doesn't end with everyone dying face down in the snow. There's hope for some of the characters, there's more than a little inspiration, and there's a satisfying ending.

Hell, there's even a naked catfight between two women who are surrounded by several other completely naked women.

It goes without saying that not all of you will be interested in a Russian-language movie about a remote and barely civilized camp in Siberia in 1945, but if the idea of watching something like that doesn't turn you off, I think you'll be very impressed by this film. It strikes an excellent balance between artistic achievement and gritty realism, with just enough old-fashioned Hollywood-style schmaltz to make it fun to watch.

DVD info not yet available


  No major graded reviews linked from IMDb





6.5 IMDB summary (of 10)

In my opinion, the 6.5 at IMDb makes the film painfully underrated. It is an excellent film.





It made its debut at the Toronto Film Festival






  • The two female stars, Yulia Peresild and Anjorka Strechel did full frontal and rear nudity in a naked catfight in the bath house.
  • Several other women were naked in the bath house
  • Peresild also exposed her breasts in a sex scene.





Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


That's the highest rating I can give to a Russian-language film which flirts with arthouse sensibilities. I'd love to see it remade with an English-speaking cast and a great director.