Rukajärven tie (Ambush) (1999)

 

 

Director:  Olli Saarela

Starring:  Peter Franzén (Eero Perkola), Irina Björklund (Kaarina Vainikainen), Kari Heiskanen (Jussi Lukkari), Taisto Reimaluoto (Unto Saarinen), Kari Väänänen (Tauno Snicker), Tommi Eronen (Simo Karppinen), Pekka Heikkinen (Evert Rönkkö), Pekka Huotari (Martti Raassina), Tero Jartti (Moilanen), Rauno Juvonen (Hämäläinen), Arttu Kapulainen (Ville Snicker), Matti Laitinen (Knihti), Petri Manninen (Ahti Heikkinen), Kristo Salminen (Kukkonen), Kari-Pekka Toivonen (Leinonen).

Awards: seven Finnish Jussi Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

 

In the opening days of World War II, a young, sensitive Finnish lieutenant Eero Perkola (Peter Franzén) is send behind Russian lines on a reconnaissance mission.  He leaves his beautiful fiancée Kaarina Vainikainen (Irina Björklund) behind.  In the midst of his mission, he learns that the Russians have killed his intended.  The news transforms the lieutenant into a vengeance-hunting, killing machine. 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Finnish–Russian border.  Lt. Eero Perkola of the Finnish 2nd Light Infantry.  The Lieutenant's division crossed the frontier and pushed the Russians eastward.  His company was held back on the Finland side of the border for one-half week.  Many of his soldiers had experience in the Winter War (1939-1940).  The Lieutenant hails from Helsinki and has a fiancée named Kaarina, who works with the women's auxiliary. 

The Lieutenant receives his orders to head east.  They leave Lieksa and cross the border, preceded by the 10th Infantry.  The goal is to take back the land that the Russians had taken in the Winter War and to defend their brothers in eastern Karelia.  The Commander-in-Chief is Mannerheim. 

The Lieutenant and his company (fourteen men altogether) reach their first destination: a village from which the enemy has just withdrawn.  The company rendezvous with other units.  Kaarina shows up at the village and asks various soldiers if Lt. Perkola is in the area.  Perkola sees her and they come together for awhile. 

Hannikainen's detachment has gained Pohjolsranta.  The division is to attack toward Rukajärven.  The assault will include about 15,000 men.  The enemy has fallen back beyond Lieksajärvi. 

Lt. Perkola and his company are to advance from Repola to Porajärvi and at a creek to dig in.  There is a 100 kilometer breach in the front and Lt. Perkola is to take the lead in finding out where exactly are the Russians. As Lt. Perkola and his company move out, Kaarina and the other women are taken in a convoy to head behind the lines.  The convoy, however, runs into a Partisan ambush.  Kaarina is taken prisoner while all the other members of the convoy are killed.  (Not too long after the event, Perkola is informed of all hands lost in the convoy attack.  Obviously, he is very upset.)

Lt. Perkola's company runs into a group of Karelian refugees.  The incompetent soldier Karppinen shoots and kills a young man who got frightened and tried to run away.  The lieutenant is very upset with his soldier.  The soldiers proceed on their scouting expedition to the village of Koroly,  Unbeknownst to them, Partisans are in the area and have spotted them.  The Finnish company reaches a river, but find the bridge burned.  They are able, however, to throw some boards across the gap in the bridge in order to cross to the other side of the river.  Heading over the bridge, Karppinen drops his bike into the water.  Perkola is so disgusted with the poor soldier that he tells him to walk back to Repola by himself.  On his way back Karppinen is killed by the Partisans. 

They arrive at another abandoned village.  Investigating one of the houses, soldier Heikkinen runs into a trip wire on a booby trap and is killed when the house explodes.  The explosion alerts the Russians in nearby Koroly.  The Russians run from the village, but leave one of their badly wounded behind.  The Finns arrive in the village and the very intense soldier Lukkari finds the wounded Russian.  Lukkari wants to kill the defenseless man, but Perkola is against it. 

Perkola and his company stay in the village for awhile.  It is nicely situated by a large lake.  They send two messengers by boat back to headquarters with the results of their search.  At night, Lukkari fires a bullet into the head of the wounded Russian.  Perkola watches but says nothing. 

Perkola and company now head back toward headquarters.  At the river they find the bridge completely repaired.  They send soldier Saarinen over the bridge, but he is hit several times in the legs and falls onto the bridge.  His comrades tell him to stay down but he tries to get up and is hit again in the legs.  He tries again and receives more leg wounds and a wound to his left shoulder and he finally falls into the water.  There is an exchange of fire between the Russians and the Finns and the Finns are forced to retreat back to Koroly.  There they receive new orders.  They are to join the offensive.  Unexpectedly, Saarinen suddenly shows up at the village.  He is badly wounded, but still alive.  They send him with two men back to headquarters via the boat.  

Perkola and company proceed ahead.  They hear and see the battle proceeding.  They attack the Russians from behind to great effect.  They are actually able to push all the way through the lines.  They lose more of their men, but make it to the river separating the Russian from the Finnish soldiers.  As soldier Tauno Snicker holds off the Russians, the rest of men men swim across the narrow river to the Finnish side.  Tauno Snicker is killed before he can swim to the other side of the river. 

Perkola and the rest of the company survivors make it back to the field hospital area. At about the same time, a disheveled and depressed Kaarina slowly walks into  the area.  She is taken to the field hospital by her comrades.  There Perkola sees her.  They are reunited. 

 

Pretty good movie.  It was not as good as Talvisota (The Winter War), but it definitely kept by interest.  The handsome Peter Franzén was good as Lt. Eero Perkola.  Kari Heiskanen as the bloodthirsty Finnish soldier Jussi Lukkari was very good in a creepy, sadistic sort-of-way.  The movie mentions a lot of place names.  So many, in fact, that it would have been nice to have a big map showing the places and the lines of the opposing armies. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

See Talvisota (The Winter War) (1989)

 

 

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