Blu-ray Review: 9th Company (2005)

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Like police officers who say they went into the line of duty in order to protect and serve and doctors who reveal their inner need to heal, one of the most popular responses that soldiers offer family, friends and the media when asked why they decided to sign up for war is their wish to fight for their country.

It's the same battle cry heard 'round the world, regardless of which side the armed men and/or women are on. Yet as admirable of a sacrifice it is to put your life on the line for the colors of your nation's flag, imagine how difficult it would be if you were fortunate enough to return home from war – relatively unscathed – only to discover that the country for which you fought is bursting apart at the seams.

Still, regardless of the bigger picture surrounding those outside of the battle, fimmaker Fyodor Bondarchuk avoids political speculation regarding just what exactly was occurring in the soon to crumble former Soviet Union while soldiers lost their lives in a decade long war in Afghanistan in his international box office smash 9th Company.

However, since contemporary viewers have the benefit of hindsight, Bondarchuk's war epic becomes that much more poignant when we realize that the men we're watching onscreen will be dying for a cause that won't be around that much longer.

Additionally, 9th Company makes for uncomfortable viewing considering the terribly cruel irony that Americans were not only aiding Russia's enemy in the conflict – the same enemy of course that formed the Taliban and attacked us on 9/11 – but that we would also be sliding into Russia's shoes for our own senselessly long, drawn out overseas war in a country that no one including Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great could conquer.

Needless to say, with all of these conflicting thoughts rushing through the head of most politically astute viewers makes it no surprise that Bondarchuk's work which was chosen by Russia as their country's official submission to the Best Foreign Film category of the Academy Awards following its release in 2005, failed to garner one of the five category slots as an Oscar nominee.

Of course, it probably would've helped the film's chances if 9th Company was a much better movie all around. While at least we can identify with more characters than we could in Black Hawk Down, essentially it's a hodgepodge of war pictures.

9th Company
opens with a Full Metal Jacket boot camp sequence that feels like it runs more than half of the two hour and twenty minute film before the work either pays visual homage to or generously lifts plot-points from Platoon, All Quiet on the Western Front and Apocalypse Now.

Thus by relying far too heavily on movies that have come before, 9th Company fails to break any new ground or use its phenomenal production crew wisely in an unparalleled opportunity to truly offer the former Soviet Union a voice in telling us their side of the story.

But obviously a fictional narrative feature that's loosely based on the last company to hold their ground against Afghanistan isn't going to take the time out to serve as a substitute for historical research.

However, by failing to even give us the broad strokes of why they were fighting, what was happening back in the Union and what really happened with the 9th Company, which I discovered is much different than what occurs onscreen, Bondarchuk never manages to get his audience fully engaged.

Elevated by its jaw-dropping cinematography nicely on display in this phenomenal high definition Blu-ray transfer, ultimately 9th Company disappoints in its decision to simply settle for the familiar ingredients of classic war movies including a sadistic drill sergeant and unexpected male bonding rather than offer any fresh insight on a war we're now facing today with another generation of soldiers fighting for their country.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.