In 1987, four young Soviet men are recruited into the army to fight in the ongoing war with Afghanistan. They will join the legendary 9th Company, and after a brutal training regime, will partake of the last major battle, operation Magistral.
Fyodor Bondarchuk has made good with his debut feature, a story of not-quite-yet-men drawn into one of the toughest units in the Soviet Army. Set in 1987, the tail end of Russia’s conflict with Afghanistan, the timing of this project is impressive — images of ill-prepared young soldiers searching desert caves provides a modern parallel, while an officer reminds us that no-one has ever won a war against this enemy.
It looks big-budget (impressively it cost just $9 million), but despite some highly effective set-pieces, screenwriter Yuri Korotkov works it on an emotional level. That said, it doesn’t bring much to this genre that we haven’t seen before.
Full of good intentions and scattered with more than a few gob-smacking scenes, this could have really taken it to Hollywood if only it had a little more to say than "war is hell here too."