I remember reading about the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s. As a cold war kid, I remember reading articles in Soldier of Fortune magazine and the like extolling the virtues of the Muj and demonizing the Soviets as invaders. I remember sporadic news coverage of the war but that is about it. Now as an older and wiser (OK, we will just go with older) individual, this movie was interesting to see the other guy's perspective.
In looking through some articles on line, about the movie. The reviews were that it is credible but the big fight at the end, historically did not end as the movie portrays it. Historically, the Soviet VDV (Airborne troops) held the hill top and only lost 8 men killed. The movie less optimistic. So much so, that a Russian game developer decided to make a game about it featuring elements of the fight to provide a better representation of what happened.
The first almost half of the movie covers the troops enlistment to an airborne unit that is destined for Afghanistan. It is interesting to me that they go straight from civilians to an airborne unit to get basic training. The training, while not showing everything, struck me as odd as you never see the airborne troops jump from an airplane. It was either not that important to the script or possibly not all airborne troops are parachute qualified? The drill instructor to American eyes would seem brutal, but he seems honestly interested in preparing the young men for service in Afghanistan. There is one odd scene where one of the enlistees has a touching moment with the drill instructor that seems a bit out of the blue. I am guessing that there was more background to this scene that ended up on the cutting room floor at some point. Predictably the men form a tight bond and end up in the back end of nowhere. My question is, did the Soviets of the 1980s take raw recruits and put them directly to airborne units or was it closer to the American model where the soldier goes through basic then volunteers for airborne school?
Since I know no Russian (except for yes and no), I had to read the subtitles. This only drew me out of the movie on occasion. For the most part, it was easy to follow and has proven to be a good movie. Here is where my lack of knowledge of the Soviet army of the 1980s comes out. The soldiers seem almost universally sloppy in appearance and care for their equipment. Their gear seems slapped on and in disarray when they are moving about. That just seemed odd to me. Was this artistic license or did the Soviet soldier from an elite unit (were airborne troops actually elite in the Soviet system?) actually just carry their gear higgldy pigldy like that?
All in all, it was a good movie. I am not sure that it accurately depicts the tactics used by the Soviets to hold off an attack. Also it claimed that the army basically forgot about the men on the hill due to the pull out. Historically, the defenders were in constant contact with headquarters and received artillery support. Seems that Hollywood is not the only place to play fast and loose with facts as much as they can.
So, here is the important question, any other recommendations or suggestions that I should look for? This one almost made me want to paint Soviets to do Afghanistan.