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A "Hitlerjugend" kind of story, set in the Soviet Union during the Second World War, based on a fictitious story from the eponymous book by Vladimir Kunin. The Red Army has a gang of juveniles for a clandestine operation against the Nazis. The boys are trained by a dangerous crime lord at a top secret boot camp. They are doomed to die in the mission, or after it, just to keep it a secret.Written by
So many experts on film art and the the Soviet Union?
I watched the film having in mind well known facts how Stalin and his commanders treated people and soldiers in particular. What seems unbelievable to reviewers, i.e. the option granted to the kids by the government: "go on to get killed or we shall kill you", was in fact a common practice in the Soviet Army (and in the political system as the whole) KGB troops that followed soldiers on the battle field during hopeless attacks, only to kill each soldier who would try to withdraw, go slower than ordered, dodge the bullets etc. (and soldiers were aware of that!) was a regular scenario of many, then famous, battles for which Stalin's generals were decorated with kilograms of medals! In this film the difference lies only in that the "choice" was given to kids rather than to men who were forced to serve in the army, after all. Of course, I am talking about the core of the situation portrayed in the film and not arguing that whole plot from start to end is in each detail totally believable.
I am surprised to find so many reviewers who firmly state that the Soviets could not use children in this way. From the military point of view it is not necessarily unbelievable: just study the history of antifascist underground armies in Poland and elsewhere, where kids (with their innocent look and presumable lack of skills) occurred clever enough to vitally help many sabotage actions, and you'll find how naive some presumptions presented here may occur.
I am perplexed to read that the Stalin's regime was not that bad as it may seem based on this movie. Gulags, KGB secret actions, great starvation of the 30s that took 30 mln lives only to silent and eliminate a population of people who were resisting the regime and were not submissive enough to allow Stalin to get them deprived of their own land (farms) and many more facts are unknown, have been forgotten or are we witnessing a kind of common amnesia? A concept much more believable to me would be that the whole advertising noise about the movie was well scheduled only to invoke a "reverse reaction", i.e. "public" claim in Russia and particularly in the free world that "Stalin was not that bad". Too twisted or too clever? No, oppressive regimes have always been more clever than systems based on civilized standards. I hope we'll not be forced to try and experience whether this statement is true or not.
As a former tutor in a correction house for juvenile criminals I find the movie psychologically very believable. I liked that the film showed a human dimension of people in a totally inhuman world. Professional features of the movie did not, in my opinion, give raise to any serious criticism and I found some scenes done perfectly. It's definitely not a movie for people whose perception was shaped and is embedded in today's Hollywood standards. Thanks for your attention and patience (if any) to read my review until the last dot.
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