Look Behind You

Sniper. The White Raven
Stars: Aldoshyn Paulo, Maryna Koshkina, Andrey Mostrenko, Roman Semysal and Zacchary Shadrin
Director: Marian Bushan
Scriptwriter: Maryna Kashkina
UM Group/Media Move/Well Go USA Entertainment
Rating: R for war violence and themed material
Running Length: One Hour and 50 Minutes
Ukraine and Russian Languages With Subtitles 

What makes a sniper?  There have been many films in the past on this subject such as “Sniper” 1993 with Tom Berenger, “Enemy at The Gates” 2001 with Jude Law, “Shooter” 2007 with Mark Wahlberg, “Rambo 4” 2008 with Sylvester Stallone and “American Sniper” 2015 with Bradley Cooper. Each with its own story of why.  Now comes the Ukrainian conflict with Russia and the true tale of a Ukraine sniper. The term “White Raven” refers to the sniper’s family crest. Aldoshyn Paulo does the role of Mykola, the soldier/sniper, with ease. In any war, there are special talents that come to the forefront, and, here, one of them happens to be math. Mycola is a teacher. 

The film begins with Mykola (Paulo) and his wife Natysa (Maryna Kashkina) living on family property and expecting their first child. Mykola is away from home when he finds out Russian troops are in the area of his property.  He gets there by bicycle only to find his wife being harassed by soldiers. Mykola is beaten and left for dead while Natysa is killed and the family home burned to the ground. Recovering and hardened from this experience, Mykola joins the Ukrainian Army, manages to make it through training and finds his skill in sniping. Not only for precise marksmanship, but the fact that he can handle rifles well----putting together (blindfolded) a rifle in 18 seconds.  This gains him a spot on the sniper squad and before you know it, he and a partner are out in the field killing people.  The key to being a sniper is accuracy, patience and, well, forget “nerves of steel,” you just don’t have nerves here.  Several scenes show their workmanship as they climb higher in the military ranks. Alas, they are targeted, and from this time on, Mykola is on the prowl for his equal in the Russian Army. A Russian sniper so sure of himself, he sends photos of the victims to them beforehand. 

It is interesting as to what makes a person a sniper. Is it an inner need to show a skill few have? A feeling of patriotism to be able to silently penetrate enemy ranks? A feeling of personal aloneness that prevents friendship? Revenge? Or, all of the above? In “White Sniper,” Mykola has had personal tragedy and sees no future for himself without his wife, so takes the alternate route with a rifle. While in training, he encounters other men working to be snipers who are there for the glory. Personal acclaim, though, can come with a price. 

What turns a gentle man into a hardened soldier is told in short scenes, such as concentration, figuring trajectory, endurance and working with someone. The loss of a loved one in a brutal way is a memory that lingers throughout. How many men are in the field during wartime, who have this memory and sometimes, it is the only thing that keeps them going.  The thought that in their duty-filled life now, there had been happy moments. 

Though no composer is listed, there is background music to go with the scenes. A touch of home with vocalist and guitar as someone prepares to take another’s life. Cinematographer is not listed, either, but scenes are well designed, though dark a great deal of the time. Snipers don’t do well getting into position in daylight. “White Raven: Sniper” will be an interesting addition to current films because of the ongoing conflict between Russia and the Ukraine. This has been going on for years and this story of a sniper could have happened years and years ago, too. There is a famous World War I poem by W. D. Cocker about a sniper of that time period, called “The Sniper.” As the saying goes, “nothing new under the sun.” 


Copyright 2022 Marie Asner