Inspired by true events, TANKERS (2018) is a Russian movie about the crew of a KV-1 tank during 1942, at the darkest point in the German invasion. Like the similar American film FURY, which was about a Sherman Easy Eight tank, TANKERS takes plenty of liberties with tank combat but overall delivers the grit, realism, and tension of a great war movie.
During the first year of the invasion, the Soviets had about 500 KV1 heavy tanks in the field. While the new T34 tanks were superior in many respects, the KV1s had one big advantage, which was their heavy armor, almost impenetrable by the German Panzer IIIs and IVs. A single KV1 could hold up large formations, and in one desperate battle, a crew managed to destroy 16 German tanks and 10 other vehicles in the Rostov region.
The film begins with Captain Konovalov receiving command of a new tank after his platoon is knocked out. His KV1 is fairly broken down, and he has to scavenge for spare parts. This is a great part of the movie, the portrayal of the Russian tankers as basically mechanics desperate to keep their machines going. Otherwise, aside from Konovalov, we don’t get much more from the crew, though they’re distinctive and likeable. Adding to the drama is a female engineer shows up who is a wizard at fixing tanks, who happens to be Konovalov’s estranged wife. You can see where this is going, and there isn’t much more happening than that. But it’s a lot of fun.
The film is fairly accurate in terms of how the tanks worked, what they could do, and how a crew operated one of these big war machines, though some sacrifices are made for drama–similar to the way FURY’s Sherman took on a large body of SS, who surely would have wiped out Fury with some panzerfaust, among other things that didn’t add up. Most notable was the tankers weren’t as terrified as they would be, and there was little hustle in tank during the fights to get shots off (something FURY did really well), which bled a lot of tension out of the combat scenes.
Overall, it was a basic, fun war movie.