Monday, December 24, 2007

9th COMPANY/9 ROTA - Full Metal Jacket in Afghanistan

9th COMPANY is a worthy Russian addition to the genre of film that takes a mixed bag of raw recruits, hurls them into basic training and then watches them grow up in a futile war run by incompetents. In this case, our band of soldiers come from Siberia and they have been shipped to Uzbekistan to prepare for the Afghan war, already in its tenth year. The film is notable for its honest script (no shortage of vulgarity and barracks humour) and the fact that this is maybe the first time Western audiences will see what the harsh Uzbekhi landscape (which also stands in for Afghanistan) looks like. In addition, there is a chilling training meeting where a hardened officer attempts to explain to his recruits what it means to fight in an Islamic country and against Islamist fundamentalists. Lessons that have not yet been learned. Geo-politics aside, viewers will empathise with the lads - their camaraderie is infectious - and enjoy the lavish photography of the battle-grounds and some really first class special effects. Director and actor Fyodor Bondarchuk (son of Sergei) handles the choreography of big artillery and planes well. I could, however, have done without the manipulative score and the over-use of slo-mo and extreme close-ups in the opening sequences. Apparently there are doubts about the historical veracity of the final battle, but I think the movie works equally well as a metaphor for the way in which ordinary soldiers are used by their commanders.

9th COMPANY was released in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Estonia in 2005 and in Finland and Poland in 2006. It played Canned 2006. It was released in the UK and Belgium in 2007 and is available on DVD.

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