Russian director Karen Shakhnazarov (Ward No. 6 – JDIFF 2010) never ceases to experiment, with both subject matter and style. WWII-set White Tiger is his first war film, a weird, wondrous tale of an eerie white fascist tank that appears, attacks and vanishes, leaving smouldering Russian tanks and cremated corpses in its wake.
Russian soldiers, happening upon a destroyed tank division, discover a blackened tank driver with burns on 90% of his body; he not only survives but miraculously heals in three weeks, unscarred. Born of war, remembering nothing of his former life, the renamed Ivan Naydenov (Aleksey Vertkov) claims to have gained the mystical ability to communicate with armoured vehicles and to have been assigned the mission of destroying the White Tiger.
As head of Mosfilm, Shakhnazarov commandeers the studio’s huge fleet of vintage, fully functional WWII tanks, and deploys them brilliantly. The battles are masterful, culminating in a spooky game of hide-and-seek in a European ghost town that qualifies as an unmitigated tour de force. Vertkov completely convinces as the wacko communing with a higher being, while Vitaliy Kishchenko’s Mayor Fedotov perfectly mirrors the audience’s conflicted belief.
Ronnie Scheib, Variety