ciaran_vallely’s review published on Letterboxd:
Tarkovsky has long been a blank space in my movie watching, so I'm glad to at least have finally checked one out. I can certainly see why Stalker has become a benchmark for all future sci-fi, there are many comparisons to be made with more modern movies. However the biggest comparison that sprang to mind as I was watching was Apocalypse Now which was also released in 1979.
There is a lot to love about the way Tarkovsky unwraps the mysteries of the Zone, and who are characters are, and their own journey's to the Room. Visually it starts off extremely strong, bathing everything in a sickly sepia tone, which in contrast make the Zone pop that much more with all the lush colours (The Wizard of Oz being another comparison I've seen made). Of course, this is more of a deception than anything else. The Zone is extremely dangerous as we are constantly reminded, and this injection of colour beckons us to go deeper, which is when the Zone starts to get darker and murkier. It wants to be explored, and get lost in. Tarkovsky's camera work plays into this. As our three protagonists explore the Zone, the subtle camera moves gave me the impression that the Zone was also exploring them.
I had to rewind once or twice in the early going to make sure I wasn't missing things, and had remembered things properly, because the movie, much like the Zone will play tricks on you. It invites a certain level of confusion. I felt a heightened sense of anxiety for nearly the entire running time mainly from the way our three protagonists act throughout. There is a real sense of fear the further they go, and it's portrayed by all three wonderfully. The respect (or at times disrespect) they show the Zone immediately instills the stakes, even though no obvious danger is ever really presented.
Despite my best efforts though, I'm certain that I did miss a few things, and will need to rewatch it to come to grips with everything Stalker is putting out there.