John Barlow’s review published on Letterboxd :
A lot of the time, I was reminded (and confirmed) of why I don’t really enjoy watching war films all that much, as most of them take an opinion I agree with (that war brings out the worst in humanity), but then articulate it in the most hyperbolic, affect-driven way by having performers act like they’re going through hell for a good chunk of the film, and not really show me anything new, either ethically or philosophically. It’s what’s prevented me from loving otherwise fascinating films like The Human Condition, Letters From Iwo Jima, Army of Shadows et al. I don’t mind reading or talking about them, but sitting through them again isn’t something I would jump at the opportunity for.
That said, I liked Shepitko’s film more as it went on, specifically the ending, where it doesn’t cop out by having Rybak successfully kill himself. It’s a very Christian film and doesn’t grant him an easy escape from the sins he’s committed. His final glance past the gates into the prison with his home in the background is like someone being denied to walk through the gates of heaven, and his cry for help could either be a sign that he can change and atone, or it could be his last grasp of humanity.