Monday, January 10, 2022

The Beast: Mad Max meets Moby Dick

Greetings, comrades!

Every once in a while you uncover a gem, just when you think you have seen all great movies in the genre. The Beast came as an absolute delight. 


A Soviet tank and its warring crew become separated from their patrol and lost in an Afghan valley with a group of vengeance-seeking rebels on their tracks.

My thoughts

It's mind-boggling that this gem did not get more exposure. The Soviet-Afghan conflict hits home, as I have lived through it in the 1980s. I am generally wary of American movies about Russians and Russian movies about Americans - having lived in both countries and experienced both cultures, I can pick up on certain subtleties and inconsistencies (like replying "yes, sir" instead of "yes, comrade"), but this movie surpassed all my expectations. Rarely do you get casual graphic brutality and fragility tugging at the viewer's nerves. The screenwriters do not take sides. Modern audiences might be taken aback by how sympathetically the Mujahadeen were depicted. The film was produced in 1988, at the tail end of the Cold War, so it's not surprising that the Soviets are not portrayed in a heroic light. At the same time, they are not portrayed as caricatures either. The characters on both sides have a surprising amount of depth, the kind you do not necessarily expect in a military film. There is a decent amount of philosophy, psychology and theology woven into the action scenes. The cinematography holds pretty well and doesn't have a "dated" feel to it. Definitely a worthy addition to your war movie collection!

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Star: a predictably decent Russian WWII flick

Happy New Year, commies!

I started 2022 by binge watching some war films. There is still a decent military history selection on Prime. Definitely check these movies out before they are removed. I've always been interested in the evolution of the Russian language WWII movies. Some directors like to experiment, while others prefer to play it safe. The Star is one of those "safe" movies, like a good chicken breast sandwich at your local deli.  


World War II, 1944. Based on a novelette of the same by Emmanuil Kazakevich. The Star is a call-sign of a reconnaissance detachment behind enemy lines. Their task: to reveal the German army's plans and find armored troops. At the cost of their lives, the soldiers inform headquarters about a massive, forthcoming attack.

My thoughts

This is not an artsy, experimental, thought-provoking or particularly character-driven WWII piece. Predictably stiff dialogue. Predictably gorgeous countryside and believable combat effects. You know what you get. If you know WWII history, you know how it ends. Decent production quality, predictable like a meal at a chain restaurant. I don't think this film was intended for a global audience. Its primary audience is the Russian speaking population, viewers whose ancestors fought on the Eastern Front. More "Rah, rah, thank you Grandpa!"