Many have called 9th Company a Russian Platoon. I think it would be more accurate to call it a mix of Full Metal Jacket and Hamburger Hill. I compare it with Full Metal Jacket because of the first part, that is taking place in the boot camp, and with Hamburger Hill because the second part is also based on a true infantry combat story that consisted of the holding of a hill. But be it as it may, it is easily understood what it means that this movie deserves to be named among the very best of its kind: It is extremely good. And in some respects (e.g. character development, emotions) it is even better than the aforementioned.
We watch the 9th Company from their early days in boot camp in Uzbekistan until they are finally flown to Afghanistan. The boot camp part is one of the best I have ever seen. And its end, the night before they depart to Afghanistan, is unique. This scene shows the whole difference between this Russian movie and any American infantry combat movie I have ever seen. The soldiers show emotions, even those of fear and sadness and speak about them openly. They also talk about why they volunteered to go to Afghanistan and one of them, a painter says: “War is only life and death, nothing unneccessary”, meaning he thinks it is utterly beautiful. Of course he is immediately contradicted by others.
The long boot camp sequence and the following early days in Afghanistan are heavy and foreboding. It is a slow and effective build-up until the final intense combat part.
The 9th company was among the last to leave Afghanistan. Their last mission was to hold Hill 3234. A group of only 36 soldiers fought against the superior number of 400 Afghan rebels. We see many of those that we got to know and like during the movie get killed. There is a moment when those who survived go completely mental so that in the end they are victorious however highly decimated. But this battle is historical for other reasons as well. It was the last battle in the last war the crumbling Soviet union was ever to fight.
The key message is delivered early on, when the recruits learn about the culture and the land they are going to invade. The instructor who teaches them says literallay : “In all of history, no one has ever managed to conquer Afghanistan. No one. Ever”
The movie is gripping from beginning to end. And the characters are remarkably interesting. Even the instructor at the boot camp, an apparently mean and sadistic brute, is shown in all his complexity and we understand him in the end. What I liked best is the inside look at the Afghan terrain. I had a feeling to understand why nobody except those who lived there for centuries was ever capable of mastering this terrain. Those mountains with their tunnel systems are not unlike the Vietnamese jungle. An abundance of hiding places; the enemy could be anywhere at any time.
This movie gets 5/5 stars. Watch it!