Prisoner of the Mountains

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3

Content: -2

This intriguing story about two present-day Russian soldiers held captive in the mountains of Chechen was among the 1996 Oscar nominees for "Best Foreign Language Film." Vania (Sergei Bodrov, Jr.), a young and inexperienced private, finds himself shackled to Sacha (Oleg Menshikov), a seasoned sergeant, in an underground hovel. They were captured in an ambush of a Russian patrol high in the mountains. Their captor is Abdul, an old Muslim who plans to trade the two soldiers for his own son, a prisoner of the Russians. Initially, Sacha ignores frightened Vania, but the two gradually become close friends. Vania befriends Abdul's young daughter, who occasionally sneaks them extra food and water. While the Muslim tries to negotiate with the Russians for the swap, Vania and Sacha face their dangerous situation with a surprising amount of humor and ingenuity. An attempted escape ends in tragedy, but the movie ends on an uplifting note. Prisoner of the Mountains contains heroism, suspense and humor, making it an outstanding adult film.

There are really no villains in this story. Some violence is inevitable, such as when Vania and Sacha kill their guard in an escape attempt. Soon after that, Sacha kills a shepherd for his rifle, and a few other shootings occur at the village jail. None of these incidents are gratuitous, however, and Sacha suffers consequences for killing an innocent bystander. Vania understands the old Muslim's determination to get his own son back, because the young soldier's mother is also fighting for his release. The captives occasionally talk about sex and make some crude remarks as they tease their guard, but these comments are fairly subdued for an R-rated film. Also, in the opening scene, nude Russian soldiers are being examined by doctors. Full rear male nudity is shown, but the men hold their hands in front to cover their genitals. The unnecessary use of 13 obscenities, a few crudities and one regular profanity does not add credibility, however. Important messages about the stupidity of war, courage and respect for others are dimmed by gratuitous foul words.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
Orion Classics, 1888 Century Park East, Los Angeles, CA 90067

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Few (3) times Moderate

Obscene Language: Many (13) times (s-word 1, f-word 8, other 4)

Profanity: Once, Regular (G)

Violence: Several times Moderate and Severe (shootings in ambush, one point-blank killing of soldier, bloody wounds showed; man hit and killed by large rock, another's throat slashed)

Sex: None

Nudity: Once (soldiers' rear nudity)

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: A few references to sex

Drugs: Few times (some drinking, drunkenness; smoking)

Other: Positive messages about respect for others

Running Time: 95 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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