An intelligent look at the Soviet-Afghan war from the participants' point of view, THE BEAST is set in 1981, the second year of the Soviet occupation. Having decimated a small Afghan village, a Soviet tank--called the Beast by the natives--is separated from its unit and trapped in a
valley. Dzundza, the brutal commander, wrongly blames his men for the mistake and keeps them in line through intimidation. Only the driver, Patric, dares to speak up to him. Meanwhile, using an antitank device, two bickering Afghan factions join forces and, led by Bauer, launch a small-scale
jihad, making Dzundza so paranoid that he executes his Afghan navigator, whom he suspects is a collaborator. Patric, who has befriended the Afghan and learned about his culture, attempts mutiny but fails and is left by Dzundza to die. Just as the driver is about to be stoned to death by some
avenging Afghan women, Bauer and his men appear. When Patric speaks their word for "asylum," he is spared. (Tradition requires an Afghan to shelter even his sworn enemy if he asks for asylum.) Patric then joins the attack on the Beast, which is eventually tamed.
Dramatic and moving, THE BEAST delivers its genre goods and explores the nature of the Soviet-Afghan conflict without employing polarizing rhetoric. The film, fairly even-handed in its portrayal of the two sides, is more concerned with the human tragedy of war than its politics. The invaders'
perspective is juxtaposed with that of the mujahadeen--in contrast to that of RAMBO III, which ignored the Soviet view, glossed over deep disputes between Afghan factions, and ignored the religious fundamentalism of some of the rebels. As a result THE BEAST yields a better look at Afghan culture
during its opening credits than RAMBO III offers in its entire length. Director Kevin Reynolds, shooting in Israel, makes good use of the vast, dry landscape and the cramped quarters of the tank, In addition, the acting is excellent. Working against the film, however, is the unrealistic portrayal
of the Soviets. Pains were taken to make the Afghans seem authentic, including having the actors speak in (subtitled) dialect, but the Russians all look, act, and speak like Americans. It's possible, however, that Reynolds intended to draw parallels between the USSR's behavior in Afghanistan and
US involvement in Vietnam. (In Pushtu and English; English subtitles.)
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- Released: 1988
- Rating: R
- Review: An intelligent look at the Soviet-Afghan war from the participants' point of view, THE BEAST is set in 1981, the second year of the Soviet occupation. Having decimated a small Afghan village, a Soviet tank--called the Beast by the natives--is separated fro… (more)