The Beast

The Beast

The Beast (1988)

During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a Russian tank becomes lost in the desert.  Outside, a band of rebels are stalking the tank, looking for revenge.  Inside, the crew splinters as their commander becomes more and more brutally iron-fisted.

After a massacre at an Afghan village, a Soviet tank becomes separated from their column.  With the survivors of the village and a band of rebels tracking them, the tank becomes hopelessly lost in the Valley of the Jackal, little realizing that they’ve cornered themselves in a valley with one way out – through the very band of enraged rebels chasing them.  As tempers flare, the commander of the tank turns on his crew until one man stands against him in a short-lived battle of wills.  “Mutiny on the Bounty” then becomes “David vs Goliath” as one man of conscience and a band of mujahadeen play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with an armored killing machine.

George Dzundza delivers the performance of his career as a bloodthirsty tank commander willing to martyr his own crew if it will help him kill his enemies.  Jason Patric stands alone against him in one of his standout roles.  The story is tense throughout, despite being a more-or-less cut-and-dry underdog story.  The battle scenes are secondary to the gritty look at man’s inhumanity to man and the lengths that people will go to out of a sense of duty, be it to their country or to their conscience.  As is so often the case, it’s those in the middle who pay the price.  Each man in the tank is his own, well-defined character (for better or worse) and even the men and women chasing them bring their own emotional baggage into the fight.

One of the great overlooked films of the late 1980s, this one stands out for its ability to take such a harsh, unblinking look at war without getting bogged down with a body count.

 

Stars: 5/5

 

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