Prisoner of the Mountains Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

Directed by Sergei Bodrov, is an examination of the rules and roles that constrain us and determine our fates. Two Russian soldiers are captured in Chechnya, one young and innocent (Sergei Bodrov Jr.) and the other a hardened veteran (Oleg Menshikov), by a village elder (Jemal Sikharulidze) who hopes to ransom the two soldiers in exchange for his son, who is being held by the Russians. Their captor instructs them to write letters to their mothers, to plead for their release. The younger soldier's mother immediately hops onto a train. The older soldier, however, has no living parents. The elder's teenage daughter, who not prospective suitors want to marry because she has no dowry (a parallel!), is in charge of watching the two prisoners. As the story develops, the two innocents, the younger soldier and the daughter, both unconstrained and ignorant of the rules and roles imposed by society, develop a 'relationship'. Unfortunately, things do not go as well for the embittered veteran and the village elder, who are sent down a path of destruction paved with the rules and roles that they must follow.

It was an interesting film thematically, though the technical aspects bogged it down. Bodrov's style is reminiscent of some old school directors which use long static shots. The whole feel of the film was more of a made-for-TV movie. The laggard pacing didn't help matters much, and unfortunately, I started nodding off halfway through the second act. Though there were some surrealistic touches, the film was generally flat in tone. The highlight for the film for me personally was the last five minutes, where the fate determined by the elder's role executes itself, smashing innocence in its path, bringing the thematic elements together in a final memorable scene.

You may enjoy this, if you are forgiving of the technical aspects of this film. But if a slowly-paced heavily-subtexted low-budget Russian film is not your idea of a good time, pass.

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