Afghan Breakdown (1991)


Afghan Breakdown (Russian: Афганский излом, translit. Afganskiy Izlom) is a 1991 war drama film about the Soviet-Afghan War directed by Vladimir Bortko and co-produced by Italy and the Soviet Union (Lenfilm). Michele Placido plays the protagonist, Major Bandura, a commander of a unit of Soviet paratroopers, co-starring with several popular Soviet actors.

The movie is still regarded by many movie critics as the best account of the war, despite newer box-office hits such as The 9th Company (2005). Director Vladimir Bortko invited Mikhail Leshchinskiy (a Soviet TV war reporter who worked in Afghanistan for 4.5 years) as a co-writer and visited Kabul and Kandahar in 1988 to research on the ground.


The events unfold just before the start of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988. Lieutenant Steklov, son of a high-ranking General, is assigned to Afghanistan, hoping to take part in combat and earn some medals before the war ends. Sgt. Arsionov (Aleksei Serebryakov) combines his combat experience and bravery with brutal hazing of young conscripts back on the field base. Major Bandura`s tour of duty has expired. He is free to go home and reunite with his wife whom he has almost forgot. This means leaving his mistress Katya (Tatyana Dogileva), a nurse in the base’s hospital – to a much anticipation from Bandura’s superior Leonid (Mikhail Zhygalov) who fell in love with Katya. Anxiety is felt by many characters about the change taking place back in the Soviet Union during the Perestroika. Bandura himself thinks he might not be able to adapt. Katya says that Afghanistan will be remembered as the best part of their lives.

The Soviet command arranges a deal with a local Afghan warlord that he won’t take action against the withdrawing Soviet troops in exchange for weapons and supplies. When asked why he needs more weapons as the war seems to be coming to an end, he replies that his war will go on for a very long time. On its way back to base the convoy that has delivered the supplies is ambushed by another faction of the mujahedin. The paratroopers take cover and fight back with only a few casualties, but the road is blocked by a damaged fuel tanker. While Bandura personally drives a tank to push the tanker off the road, inexperienced Steklov dashes forward attempting to lead troops to counterattack and is badly wounded. Later, his leg is amputated at the hospital, which adds to the stack of Bandura’s career problems. Bandura decides to stay with his men for a while and lead a retaliatory mission to finish a mujahedin leader, who is presumed wounded and taken to the neutral warlord’s village. When the preparations are finished, Bandura comes to say good bye to Katya, who is scheduled to leave the country on the morrow. A junky soldier at the hospital insults him by insubordination but Bandura suddenly shows no will for disciplining him. Instead, he requests to be replaced by some other officer on the mission, citing a sore foot as a pretext. But after realisation that his company is setting out, he resumes command. It goes awry again when the neutral warlord is accidentally killed in the raid and his men become hostile and together with the mujahedin attack the paratroopers. Bandura is able to pull his unit out mostly intact, but they are pinned down and call in an Mi-24 airstrike that obliterates the village. After the strike, Bandura becomes apathetic, and without apparent reason, re-enters the village alone. He finds nobody alive except for a 10-year boy clinging to an AK-47. Bandura hesitates, unsure what to do, then walks away, allowing the boy to shoot him in the back and kill him. The final scene shows dozens of Soviet helicopters flying away from the devastated village.


  • Michele Placido … Major Mikhail Bandura.
  • Tatyana Dogileva … Katya.
  • Mikhail Zhigalov … Lieutenant Colonel.
  • Filipp Yankovskiy … Nikita Steklov.
  • Aleksey Serebryakov … Sergeant Arsyonov – Russian Rambo.
  • Nina Ruslanova … Tatyana.
  • Nikolai Ustinov … Vasya Onisimov.
  • Rinat Ibragimov … Denis Popov.
  • Khoshim Rakhimov … Gulakhan (as Khashim Rakhimov).
  • Kiem Yakub … Gulakhan’s Son.
  • Artur Uvarov … Ivanov.
  • Yuriy Kuznetsov … Shchup.
  • Viktor Proskurin … Simakov.
  • Sergei Isavnin … Sedykh.
  • Muso Isoyev … Adil.
  • Bakhadur Miralibekov … Young Bai.
  • Vladimir Eryomin … Medical Captain.
  • Leonid Kulagin … General Steklov.
  • Wali Latifi … Jeluddin.
  • Alessandro Stefanelli … Seva.
  • M. Mokhamiad Ali … Mujaheddin.
  • Ivan Krasko … Viktor Nikolaevich.


  • The film was released in four parts on television.
  • According to many critics, this film is one of the best about the Afghan war.
  • The film was shot in the winter of 1990 in Tajikistan.
    • Since 11 February, the film crew had been in the centre of the riots in Dushanbe, as a result of which the film administrator Nikita Matrosov was killed, and the film crew was evacuated to Tashkent in military transport.
  • Italian actor Michele Placido was cast as Bandura due to his role in the television series La piovra (1984), which was wildly popular in the USSR.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Vladimir Bortko.
  • Producer(s):
    • Aleksandr Golutva … producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Leonid Bogachuk.
    • Aleksandr Chervinsky.
    • Mikhail Leshchinsky.
    • Ada Petrova.
  • Music:
    • Vladimir Dashkevich
  • Cinematography:
    • Valeri Fedosov.
    • Pavel Zasyadko.
  • Editor(s):
    • Mauro Bonanni.
  • Production:
    • Clemi Cinematografica.
    • Lenfilm Studio.
    • Russkoye Video.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Cannon/VMP (1992) (Germany) (VHS).
    • VCL Communications (2007) (Germany) (DVD).
  • Release Date: May 1991 (Cannes Film Festival).
  • Running Time: 140 minutes.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Country: Soviet Union and Italy.
  • Language: Russian and Italian.

Video Link

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