Idan Winter’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is the film most people first watch when they wanna get into Tarkovsky's filmography. Compared to 𝗜𝘃𝗮𝗻'𝘀 𝗖𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗵𝗼𝗼𝗱, this is a noticable step up for Andrei, especially in terms of themes, cinematography and editing. With the runtime of 2 hours and 30 min, this is definitely a film you want to focus your attention on, in order for to fully immerse yourself in his world.
Everything I've been hearing about the man is here on full display- philosophical dialogue, very long takes with barely a single shot under a full minute, heavy focus on sound (which was also in 𝗜𝘃𝗮𝗻'𝘀 𝗖𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗵𝗼𝗼𝗱), and amazing sets and scenery. As the opening shot reveals itself, you immediately notice the importance of silence and sound design, as there are many scenes where silence and natural sounds are all that matters.
The performances are all better than I initially expected, as the 3 leads- Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy (Stalker), Anatoliy Solonitsyn (Writer) and Nikolay Grinko (Professor) are all pretty fantastic. Even Alisa Freyndlikh (Stalker's wife) who only appears for a few scenes is excellent and riveting to watch, espcially the first scene with her husband. I should also mention Natasha Abramova (Stalker's daughter) who appears even less yet stil made a mark thanks to the final scene.
Technically, it's just as outstanding, with stunning use of lightning, shadows and interesting compositions. It's quite the understatement to say many shots and images from this film have become iconic, and when you watch the actual movie- it's easy to understand why. Almost every set is brilliantly composed, with The Zone being arguably the best one. Something I didn't expect to see is A LOT of zoom ins-and-outs. It doesn't occur in every shot, but it is frequent enough. Sometimes it looks like the camera accidentally crash-zooms but it doesn't damage the overall experience.
The editing by Lyudmila Feiginova, who edited all of Tarkovsky's films except for 𝗡𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗹𝗴𝗶𝗮 and 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗦𝗮𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗲, also sees a major improvement with each cut and fade in/out feeling precise and just long enough for you to take in the whole scenery. The opening and closing shots are simply astonishing!
Coming to the script by Anderi himself along with Arkadiy and Boris Strugatskiy, it's great. It took me some time to fully get into the mood of the film, but when it did- I was locked and focused. Like I mentioned in the beginning, there's a lot of talk regarding humanity, people's needs and wishes and what good have you done in the world. During which, there are plenty of long takes with very minimal camera movement and top-notch direction.
Despite it being easy at times to lose focus and keep your attention during the entire duration, it's nevertheless a phenomenal film which made me even more interested in Tarkovsky's rather small yet fine catalogue!