9th Company (2005)


Introduction

The 9th Company (Russian: 9 рота, romanised: 9 rota) is a 2005 Russian war film directed by Fedor Bondarchuk and set during the Soviet-Afghan War.

The film is loosely based on a real-life battle that took place at Elevation 3234 in early 1988, during the last large-scale Soviet military operation (Magistral) in Afghanistan.

Outline

At a farewell ceremony in Krasnoyarsk, a band of young Soviet Army recruits is preparing to leave for military duty. Lyutyi (Artur Smolyaninov) one of the conscripts forms a group along with Chugun (Ivan Kokorin), Gioconda (Konstantin Kryukov), Ryaba (Mikhail Evlanov), Stas (Artyom Mikhalkov), Seryi (Ivan Nikolaev), and Vorobey (Aleksey Chadov). They have different talents and personalities that made it hard for them to form a bond with each other at first.

On arrival at their bootcamp in the Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan, they meet another recruit, Pinochet (Soslan Fidarov), a Chechen recruit from Grozny, and their drill instructor, Senior Praporschik Dygalo, a seasoned, traumatized veteran of several tours in Afghanistan and a brutal trainer who treats the recruits harshly. During their training, the recruits overcome their differences and build bonds. Between the training sessions, they receive lessons in operating plastic explosives (which prompts some comic relief) and how to communicate with the locals in Afghanistan (underlining the vast cultural differences between Soviet and Afghan culture). During an orientation, a Soviet General asks if anyone in the VDV has changed their minds as they are about to be reassigned to another unit. Vorobey and Seryi initially intend to quit but halt their decision and remain.

Later, Dygalo wakes up the recruits and beats everyone in a frantic manner. Although many claim that he is suffering from mental breakdown, they later learn that he wanted to go with them to Afghanistan but his request got rejected. The recruits then leave for Afghanistan via plane.

On their arrival at Baghram air base, they are greeted by a group of VDV troops who have fulfilled their military service and are due to return home. One of the departing soldiers gives one of the new arrivals, Lyutyi, a talisman that he claims has kept him safe through several tours and multiple firefights. Homeward bound, the departing soldier’s transport plane is hit by enemy fire from the nearby mountains and crashes, giving the new recruits their first taste of war. Shortly thereafter, the soldiers are assigned to the 9th company, where their trainer and drill instructor, Dygalo, had previously served. Pinochet and Ryaba however are reassigned to another unit, separating him from Lyutyi and his friends.

Upon arriving there, they met Warrant Officer Pogrebnyak “Khokhol” (Fedor Bondarchuk) who is Dygalo’s second-in-command. They also met Sergeant Afanasiev “Afanasiy” (Dmitry Mukhamadeev) and Sergeant Kurbanhaliev “Kurbashi” (Amadu Mamadakov) who were Dygalo’s former companions as he was claimed to be discharged. Meanwhile, Chugun is given by Pomidor (Aleksandr Bashirov) the beaten up machine gun that Private Samylin used during his duty in Afghanistan. Khokhol tells about Dygalo’s life on the company and tells his habits during his tours of duty in Afghanistan. Later the company leaves the headquarters to deliver supplies in an outpost of Soviet troops which would be the new component of the 9th company. While traveling through the base, Afanasiy also warns the new members of the company against their allies, the Afghan Army that is demoralized and weakened by mass desertion of its officers during the war. Upon delivering all the supplies needed and spending most of the night in the base, Patefon (Aleksandr Sheyn) invites the company for a shooting exercise. They come across a skirmish with a group of mujahideen led by Akhmed (Marat Gudiev), who insults with Patefon before exchanging fire. The next day Vorobey encounters Akhmed, holds him at gunpoint and is led to kill him, making him the first one in the company to kill a Mujahideen. The company then leaves for its next mission.

The company is soon deployed to the front as a part of Operation Magistral, and receive the order to hold a nameless hill at all costs. They fortify the hill and turn it into a base. That night however, they are attacked by a group of mujahideen. Only Ryaba survives the attack as the far cordon was entirely annihilated by the attack, letting him speechless and crippled. To make sure that the mujahideen don’t start an attack again, several soldiers are ordered to guard the hill. Stas however falls asleep during his duty and is beaten up by Khokhol, Afanasiy and Kurbashi. The next day, Gioconda is instructed to find matches. He encounters an old Afghan man, who, despite the language barrier, leads him to his village. Fearing an ambush, Gioconda arrives in the village and enters the house of the man. Upon seeing an old woman, says it is Haram. He is eventually given matches by a kid living there in return for food. As he leaves the village, he encounters members of the company led by Captain Bystrov (Aleksei Kravchenko), who were ready to storm the village.

Several days later, a convoy arrives to the base, but is ambushed by the mujahideen. Several vehicles are destroyed and many soldiers killed. During the shootout, an injured Ryaba suffers from a mental breakdown and was is in the head as he yells to the company to stop firing. Captain Bystrov is also killed in action during the fight. Meanwhile, Khokhol, Lyutyi, and Vorobey attack the underground positions of the mujahideen, but are forced to return upon learning that their enemies are already in the village. The company then invades the village, which seems to be empty. Stas sees a young boy and decides to spare him, but as soon as he turns around he is shot in the back by the boy and dies shortly thereafter. The company is forced to leave as the village is shelled by BM-21 Grad rocket launchers, while the company lament the death of Stas.

Later, Afanasiy leads some men of the company to steal food cans from a passing army convoy. The soldiers then tell each other their plans for the future after they are discharged from duty in Afghanistan. That night, the company celebrates New Year’s Eve by listening to Mikhail Gorbachev’s speech on radio, drink to their fallen comrades. Pinochet then arrives in the company’s base to reunite with his friends: he got into trouble with his unit and was thus reassigned to the 9th company. Welcoming him, the company then starts the party by dancing to some Soviet pop Music.

The next morning, while the entire company is asleep, Gioconda goes outside of the base to draw the landscape. As a large pocket of mujahideen arrives, he is immediately shot in the head and cannot warn the others of the upcoming assault. Reacting to this surprise attack, the 9th company fires back but are shelled by mortars. As he tries to ask for reinforcements by radio, Patefon is killed by a mortar shell which disrupts the communication lines. The company is able to return to the trenches and engage the mujahideen, Khokhol orders some of the men to shell the enemy positions with mortars but Khokhol’s position is hit by a rocket that kills two of his men and abandoned any hopes to disrupt the enemy lines. Soon, the mujahidden break the line and hand in hand combat ensues. Another shelling begins, a rocket kills Khokhol while Kurbashi is killed by a bullet. During the fight, Lyutyi along with the surviving members of the company fought their way to prevent the mujahideen from launching a complete ambush on the convoy. Vorobey is hit on his knees while fighting, unable to make his way to the lines of his comrades, Chugun uses his machine gun to attack the mujahideen in hopes to cover him but is killed instantly. As he is approached by mujahideen fighters, Vorobey detonates a grenade to himself. This leads Lyutyi to fearlessly charge to the enemy lines with Samylin’s machine gun along with the company. They briefly gain the upper hand and are able to push the fighters back in their positions.

Stranded with low ammunition and no means of communications, the company gathers: only seven of them survived and all officers are dead. Lyutyi along with Afanasiy leads the last men of the company in defence of the hill. They encounter the last fighters and fearlessly fight them till the last man when Mil Mi-24 helicopter gunships arrive and kill the remaining Afghan fighters. Afanasiy is shot on the chest while the last of the men are killed in the gunfight.

Lyutyi is the only one from the company who remains alive. Speechless and severely crippled, he tells the Colonel (Andrey Krasko) that the convoy now may pass as the 9th company has fulfilled their duty and mission. The colonel says that there will be no convoy as the Soviets are already withdrawing from Afghanistan and wonders why they have not heard the orders on the radio. Upon realising what happened to the 9th company, the colonel comforts him. Lyutyi passes through the dead bodies of the entire company and removes the Talisman from his neck as he kneels to ground crying.

Later on February 15, 1989, a column of BTR-80 is seen leaving Afghanistan. Lyutyi is in one of the vehicles along with other soldiers who had fulfilled their duty in Afghanistan. He expressed his sympathy as two years later the country they have been fighting for will vanish (Soviet Union). He also tells the fate of most of the people in the military. This includes Senior Praporschik Dygalo being reassigned to Tula to train recruits, who then dies on a night march a year later of a stroke. Snow White and her mother along with other Russian families remain in Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan until they all disappear without a trace. He also says that from years later the veterans like him in the conflict will be scattered ruthlessly by the new life. He concludes by saying that the 9th Company won its own war.

Cast

  • Artur Smolyaninov as Private then Sergeant Oleg Lutaev (Lyutyy).
  • Aleksey Chadov as Private Volodya Vorobiev (Vorobey).
  • Konstantin Kryukov as Private Ruslan Petrovskyy (Dzhokonda).
  • Ivan Kokorin as Private Chugainov (Chugun).
  • Mikhail Evlanov as Private Ryabokon (Ryaba).
  • Artyom Mikhalkov as Private Stasenko (Stas).
  • Soslan Fidarov as Private Bigbulatov (Pinochet).
  • Ivan Nikolaev as Seryy.
  • Mikhail Porechenkov as Senior Praporschik Alexandr Dygalo.
  • Fedor Bondarchuk as Warrant Officer Pogrebnyak (Khokhol).
  • Dmitriy Mukhamadeev as Sergeant Afanasiev (Afanasiy).
  • Irina Rakhmanova as Belosnezhka (Snow White girl).
  • Amadu Mamadakov as Sergeant Kurbanhaliev (Kurbashi).
  • Aleksandr Shein as Patefon (as Aleksandr Sheyn).
  • Aleksei Kravchenko as Captain Bystrov.
  • Aleksandr Bashirov as Pomidor.
  • Mikhail Olegovich Yefremov as Veteran, who gives talisman.
  • Stanislav Govorukhin as a training regiment commander.
  • Andrey Krasko as unknown Colonel in Afgan.
  • Aleksandr Lykov as Major of combat engineers.
  • Aleksey Serebryakov as Reconnaissance Captain.
  • Oles Katsion as Mikhey.
  • Karen Martirosyan as Ashot.
  • Marat Gudiev as Akhmet.
  • Denis Moshkin as ‘Chernyy aist’ (‘the Black Stork’).
  • Aleksandr Kucherenko as Barber.
  • Svetlana Ivanova as Olya.
  • Evgeniy Arutyunyan as Radioman.
  • Mikhail Vladimirov as Tank driver.
  • Mikhail Solodko as Military commissariat officer.

Release

It received generally positive reviews from critics.

However, the film received a mixed reaction from the veterans of that war, who pointed to a number of inaccuracies, but nevertheless, judging by ticket sales, it was embraced by the general public and even by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although first released in 2005, and broadcast on TV in several nations, it was not released in the US until 2010 on DVD.

Box Office

The film was released in September 2005 and was successful in the Russian box office, generating $7.7 million in its first five days of release alone, a new domestic record.

Awards

In 2006, Russia selected the film as its candidate for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film nomination. It was also given the Golden Eagle Award for Best Feature Film by the Russian Academy of Cinema Arts.

Trivia

  • 2,000 extras were used in battle scenes.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Fedor Bondarchuk.
  • Producer(s): Alexander Rodnyansky, Yelena Yatsura, and Sergey Melkumov.
  • Writer(s): Yuri Korotkov.
  • Music: Dato Evgenidze.
  • Cinematography: Maksim Osadchy.
  • Editor(s): Igor Litoninsky.
  • Production:
  • Distributor(s): Art Pictures Group.
  • Release Date: 29 September 2005.
  • Running Time: 139 minutes.
  • Rating: 15.
  • Country: Russia, Ukraine, and Finland.
  • Language: Russian and English (subtitles).

Video Link

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