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Film / Prisoner of the Mountains

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Prisoner of the Mountains is a 1996 film from Russia directed by Sergei Bodrov.

His son Sergei Bodrov Jr. plays Ivan, a young recruit who has just joined the army. Ivan is promptly sent to the front lines of the war with Chechnya, a ethnically and religiously distinct enclave that wants independence from Russia. Seemingly not long after Ivan is sent to war, he is captured when his convoy is ambushed by Chechen guerillas. Captured along with him is Sasha (Oleg Menshikov), a much more experienced combat veteran who initially thinks little of his young comrade.

The reason that the two Russians are captured instead of killed is that Abdul, a Chechen village elder, has a son who is being held prisoner by the Russians. Abdul wants his son back and sends a message offering the Russian soldiers in exchange. The commander of the local Russian garrison doesn't really expect to get his two men back, however, and thus has little interest in the exchange. While Ivan and Sasha are held captive in the village, they bond with each other, as well as with Abdul, and Abdul's 12-year-old daughter, Dina. Meanwhile, Ivan's mother travels to the Chechnya's front to save him.


  • Bittersweet Ending: Sasha is killed. Abdul lets Ivan go, but as Ivan is walking to freedom he sees the Russian helicopters bound for the village, which they presumably are about to annihilate. The film ends with Ivan's voiceover musing about how he sees the people of the village in his dreams, but they won't talk to him.
  • Chekhov's Gun: An actual gun. One scene shows a Russian officer going into a liquor store and paying for vodka by handing over his sidearm. That gun is later bought by Mahmed's father and used to kill his own son.
  • Dream Sequence: After Sasha is killed Ivan sees his ghost. Sasha says he likes being dead, as it's more peaceful.
  • Fan Disservice: Theoretically the opening scene with Ivan and the other recruits should be Fanservice, given as how they are all Good-Looking Privates with no clothes on. But the clinical nature of an army medical physical makes it closer to this; Ivan is obviously embarrassed.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: The sole bit of modesty the Russian recruits have during their examination is their hands cupped over their privates, modesty that is taken away when the doctor examines them closely.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Mahmed is a Chechen policeman who works with the Russians. His own father gains entrance into the Russian compound asking to see his son. When Mahmed greets his father, the father pulls out a gun and shoots Mahmed straight through the heart, triggering a bloody fight that gets Abdul's son killed.
  • Lima Syndrome: Sets in with Ahmed and Dina. She unshackles him and tells him to run away, even though that will probably get her killed by the village. Ahmed for his part can't bring himself to shoot Ivan, instead letting him walk away to freedom. See Stockholm Syndrome below.
  • Mama Bear: Ivan's mother, who starts hitting the commander with her purse when the commander expresses unwillingness to trade for Ivan. Later she seeks out and meets Abdul all by herself.
  • Old Soldier: In contrast to the green Ivan, Sasha is an experienced combat veteran. He's confident that the commander of the garrison will rescue them, because it's their "third war together."
  • Scenery Porn: The film was shot in Dagestan, within twenty miles of the Real Life combat going on in Chechnya at that time.
  • Setting Update: It's testimony to how long ethnic Russians have been fighting the peoples of the Caucasus that this film is actually an adaptation of a 120-year-old Leo Tolstoy short story, "Prisoners of the Caucasus."
  • Stockholm Syndrome: After Dina unshackles Ivan and tells him to run away, he says he won't, because she'll be killed for helping him. So he sits there and waits for Abdul to come and execute him.
  • Vodka Drunkenski:
    • Sasha is introduced riding into headquarters drunk, on the front bumper of a jeep. He hands his CO a bottle of vodka, then drunkenly fires his Kalashnikov around the barracks.
    • Later Sasha and Ivan find Abdul's homebrew liquor stash, and get totally wasted.
  • The Voiceless: Hasan had his tongue cut out while doing time in a particularly savage Russian prison.
  • Widow's Weeds: Dina is dressed in all black after getting word that her older brother was killed in prison.