Alexander Nevsky ★★★★

At first it's strange to witness Eisenstein taking on such a conventional, linear story (the 13th century defeat of the Holy Roman Empire's attempted Russian invasion) -- and he was certainly reined in a bit by forces beyond his control -- but he's great at it, rendering an obvious piece of wartime propaganda utterly compelling despite its skeletal simplicity; as usual, nearly every shot and edit is striking and almost nightmarish in its angular cleanliness. Then comes the battle scene, which occupies the majority of the film's second half, and oh yeah, there he is -- the sequence on the ice floes is instantly obvious as an unmistakable influence on seemingly every action film made since, with Seven Samurai and Star Wars springing to mind immediately. Despite the nationalistic sentimentality, this is never once tedious or alienating, even as it's prodding blatantly at the then-current international situation with Germany (with shots of German soldiers throwing children into a fire, naturally); like Eisenstein's best silent work, it transcends its didactic ideology through sheer cinematic excitement and invention.