Thursday, June 30, 2022

Sniper: The White Raven

Ukrainian Mykola Voronin went on the same journey as Ron Kovic, but in the reverse direction. He started out as a hippy, dovish ecology professor, before the brutality of the invading Russians turned him into the Ukrainian Sniper. Sadly, his pacificist principles did not deter Putin’s war criminals from their scorched earth tactics. Channeling his rage, Voronin reinvents himself into a warrior in Marian Bushan’s Sniper: The White Raven, which opens tomorrow in New York.

Voronin is a real-life figure and the events in this film are as real as it gets. Before the invasion, he and his wife moved to the Donbas region to live in the windmill-powered sustainable cottage he devised, where they also intended to raise their unborn baby. Then the Russians came. Only Voronin survived.

Given his bike-to-class lifestyle, Voronin was already reasonably fit, but he was completely untrained in modern war-fighting. However, his desire for revenge motivates him to learn quickly. Eventually, he volunteers for sniper training, developing a talent for it, but he still needs to work on the required patience.

After all the flag-waving Russian propaganda movies set during WWII several genre distributors embarrassingly proceeded to release during the early days Putin’s full-scale invasion, it is nice to see the Ukrainian perspective finally get some representation. (Make no mistake, Russians believe with a religious fervor that their victory in Great Patriotic War gives them the right to control and dictate life in Eastern Europe.) Yet, the psychological complexity of Pavlo Aldoshyn’s portrayal of Voronin will still appeal to New Yorkers who are put off by the faintest whiff of “jingoism,” (which only seems to apply to Western democracies).

In fact, everything about
White Raven is scrupulously realistic, especially the scenes of combat. They should look credible, because the large-scale sequences often feature active-duty Ukrainian military personnel as extras. Presumably, this is a story they could all relate to. Again, that makes sense, since Bushan co-wrote the screenplay with Voronin himself.

Aldoshyn broods so hard as Voronin, viewers could pull a stomach muscle just watching him. It is a quiet screen turn, but it as fierce as it gets. In addition, Andriy Mostrenko (who was also a standout in
Haytarma) really helps anchor the film, playing Cap, Voronin’s steely commanding officer and sniper-trainer.

Critics might object to some of the dramatically convenient reappearances of a few characters, but the Donbas is only 26 square kilometers and this is a movie. When you watch it, you will want to see some payback and Voronin aims to deliver. Highly recommended for Ukraine supporters and fans of war movies,
Sniper: The White Raven opens tomorrow (7/1) in New York, at the Village East.