Young Soviet Army recruits are stuck in the bloody war in Afghanistan, that was started by politicians.Young Soviet Army recruits are stuck in the bloody war in Afghanistan, that was started by politicians.Young Soviet Army recruits are stuck in the bloody war in Afghanistan, that was started by politicians.
- Sergey 'Khokhol' Pogrebnyakas Sergey 'Khokhol' Pogrebnyak
- (as Fyodor Bondarchuk)
There is the usual diversity among the men, but not very like an American combat film. No Texans or wise guys from Brooklyn. But there are class differences. One soldier who has eaten out of garbage cans snaps at another who is an educated artist. The training regimen soon turns earnest, rigorous, and brutal -- and much more familiar. The F bomb is generously deployed, along with plenty of single entendres. The battle-scarred drill sergeant always in a rage, swearing and humiliating the men. The growing cohesiveness and developing friendships within the squad. Actually, we get to like the guys because we can identify with them, just as in an American movie.
There's a touching scene involving the camp's whore, who is blond and rather plain. The squad are all stoned but the chuckling dies down as they trade ideas about wounds and death. The artist is sent by the others into the next room with "Snow White," the blond, told to lose his virginity and become a real man. The girl is sweaty and bedraggled but the young man sees beauty behind the ordinariness. He tells her so and she giggles in surprise, disbelief, and the kind of relief an animal must feel when, instead of the usual kick, he's petted instead. And when the artist pulls her naked back into the squad room, he shouts that he's found Venus rising from the sea. The other men, howling with laughter, throw themselves at her feet while she holds her fingers to her over-ripe lips and laughs in little bursts, half uncomprehending and half swooning with pleasure.
In the second part of the film the squad reaches Afghanistan and most of the jokes disappear. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. (Eventually something is going to kill you, though.) The combat scenes are savage and yet recognizable from American movies about Vietnam or, more particularly, from "Blackhawk Down." It takes a little getting used to because at first the uniforms, weapons, and military protocol are a little different from ours. And at first it's odd to hear up-to-date American voices and slang terms from other nationals but the pattern soon reveals itself and we can sit back and watch another movie about a futile war against the masked and black-robed Mujuhadin against whom we would send our own troops in another twelve or thirteen years.
- Feb 15, 2014