“War, unfortunately, is eternal — something we clearly see in PRISONER OF THE MOUNTAINS. Writer-director Sergei Bodrov’s powerful film of two Russian soldiers held captive in a Chechnya mountain village was a prize-winner at [the 1996] Cannes Film Festival, where it was judged the best film shown out of competition — and a major contender for [the 1997] foreign language Oscar.
The film deserves those plaudits. Bodrov’s movie has the clarity, force and simple humanity of anti-war classics like ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT and PATHS OF GLORY or the ’50s-’60s Russian films BALLAD OF A SOLDIER, THE CRANES ARE FLYING and IVAN’S CHILDHOOD. It has substance, heart, fire.” (Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune)
“Movies can have a way of putting faces to headlines. I have been reading for years about the various obscure (to me) rebellions in the old Soviet Union, and now I can put faces to them, and see what they come down to: bureaucracy against zealotry, weary regular troops against fierce men who burn with conviction. When your enemy considers his death a victory, it is impossible to defeat him. In a way, this movie is about how the two prisoners come to terms with that realization.” (Roger Ebert)
“The director’s son, Sergei Jr., plays Vanya, a naive young draftee captured in a rebel ambush, along with cynical veteran Sasha, played by Oleg Menshikov (BURNT BY THE SUN) … The film’s sweetest surprise is an affecting, self-assured performance by 12-year-old Susanna Mekhralieva, who plays Abdul-Murat’s daughter. While she matter of factly espouses local anti-Russian sentiments, she is touched by Vanya’s kindness, to the point of risking her father’s wrath … For Western audiences, the film’s loving view of the Chechen people and landscape put a human face to complex news from vaguely understood foreign outposts.” (Margaret A. McGurk, The Cincinatti Enquirer)