After a long festival run last in 2021, Firebird is about to hit theatres.
Sergey (Tom Prior) is a soldier on a Soviet air force base, while he doesn’t love his situation, he gets by. He has friends and a solid rank, but his life changes when he meets the fighter pilot, Roman (Oleg Zagorodnii), and they immediately fall in love. But in a dangerous time and place, their love is instantly put to the test.
Is a film worth seeking out because it is based on a true story? Find out in our review below.
Firebird is Solid
Director Peter Rebane is mostly known for one music video of the band Pet Shop Boys, a Robbie Williams Live TV special, as well as the documentary Robbie Williams: Fans Journey to Tallinn. Firebird is the director’s first “big” feature film work, which he also produced and co-wrote. While directors like Michael Bay, who also started his career with music videos, have incorporated techniques from that medium into their directing style, Rebane didn’t do that. In fact, I would have never expected that his career started with music videos, just from watching his work on Firebird, which can only be described with the same word I’d describe the film with: solid.
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Firebird is a gay romance drama set in occupied Estonia in 1977 and is based on a true story. The setting is definitely one that we haven’t seen a lot in recent years or in general in the medium. That is an exciting aspect of the film even though it never really showcases the state of the country. And when there are some military operations, as a good chunk of Firebird does take place in a military department, the film never cares to explain the context. But that is not the film’s desire, as the whole focus lies on the romance between Sergey (Tom Prior) and Roman (Oleg Zagorodnii) and therefore on the performances of the two leading men.
The two leads both deliver very solid performances, while Tom Prior, who also co-wrote the film, does stand out with a bit more showy and emotional turn. I also liked Diana Pozharskaya in the role of Luisa, the best friend of Sergey, who brings a lot of heart to the film, especially near the end. These three do carry the film on their backs and are the selling point of the film, especially because the theoretically interesting story faces one major problem.
Firebird Flutters With One Key Point
The biggest hiccup the film has is its predictability. While it is important to tell these stories, there seems to be a pattern, especially with gay romances set in the past, and Firebird checks all the boxes. Obviously, with the film being based on a true story, the plot beats are very limited and don’t have a lot of room to play with. But not being creative with the room it has keeps it from being more exciting.
It is immediately apparent where the story is heading and you just end up waiting for all the plot beats to happen. It feels like the film meticulously checks its plot points off a checklist. That doesn’t mean that the story is never engaging, but it also never goes beyond being generic.
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Firebird works best when the focus actually lies on the relationship between Sergey and Roman. But due to the film’s setting, the actual romance doesn’t have a lot of screen time, as the two have to keep it a secret and don’t have many opportunities to be with each other. Prior and Zagorodnii do have some solid chemistry and their dynamic is what keeps the film alive. But while the film really builds up to its sensual scenes, they lack the directing to be memorable.
These scenes don’t stand a chance when compared to other genre entries like Call Me by Your Name or Brokeback Mountain. Firebird has so many similarities with those films that it almost feels like a cheap rip-off. Maybe the book Brokeback Mountain is based on or was inspired by this true story or the authors of Firebird, Peter Rebane, Tom Prior and Sergey Fetisov were inspired by Ang Lee’s masterwork, either way, Firebird never even comes close to the 2005 film.
Another point where the film doesn’t reach its full potential is during the military portions. Be it a jet taking off or just Sergey (Tom Prior) and military officers standing in an operating base. The limited budget is clearly visible, but the jet sequences surprisingly look better than the operation base scenes. The operation base scenes are weirdly framed in order to create a claustrophobic atmosphere, but instead, add to the cheap look of the production design. While these are obviously only a handful of scenes and never the focus of the film, it is something I noticed.
Firebird is at no point a bad film, but it isn’t a surprisingly great one either. It is a solid romance drama set in a dangerous time and place, with some solid turns by its main trio. While it arduously checks all the boxes, making the film quite predictable, you could also say there is nothing that it lacks.
For the reasons given above, I give Firebird a 3/5.
Firebird is co-written and directed by Peter Rebane and stars: Tom Prior, Oleg Zagorodnii, Diana Pozharskaya and Nicholas Woodeson. It is now playing in theatres.
What do you guys think of Firebird? Are you planning to watch it in theaters? Have you seen it already, if so how did you like it? Let’s discuss everything in the comments down below and on our Social Media.
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