Prisoner of the Mountains
Another foreign-language Oscar nominee — this one from Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov (Freedom Is Paradise) — with a contemporary political heft softened by pretty photography and a moist emotional center. Oleg Menshikov (Burnt by the Sun) and the director’s son, Sergei Bodrov Jr., star as Russian soldiers with nothing in common — one’s a cynical pro, the other’s a gawky new recruit — who are captured while on patrol in an isolated Muslim village deep in the Caucasus Mountains, and held for ransom by the town patriarch. Literally chained together in an exotic culture tenderly and respectfully revealed, the two develop a comradely bond, as well as a warm regard for their captors, particularly the young daughter of the house (Susanna Mekhralieva). There are escapes, killings, even a wrestling match in this poignant story, filmed not far from Chechnya and based on Leo Tolstoy’s 150-year-old pacifist novella, Prisoner of the Caucasus. But it’s the beautifully captured images in Prisoner of the Mountains of the region’s still, unchanging beauty that will stay with you longest.