Zvezda (The Star) (2002)
Director: Nikolay Lebedev.
Starring: Igor Petrenko (Lt. Travkin), Artyom Semakin (Pvt. Vorobiev), Aleksey Panin (Sgt. Kostya), Mamochkin, Aleksey Kravchenko (Sgt. Anikanov), Anatoliy Gushchin (Pvt. Bykov), Amadu Mamadakov (Pvt. Temdekov), Yuri Laguta (Sgt. Brazhnikov), Ekaterina Vulichenko (Pvt. Katya Simakova), Andrei Yegorov (Capt. Andrei Barashkin), Sergey Miller (First Captured German), Gennadi Vorotnikov (Second Captured German), Aleksandr Efimov (Third Captured German), Aleksandr Naumov (Serbichenko), Aleksandr Dyachenko (Galiyev), Oleg Gushchin (Likhachyov).
summer of 1944, facing certain death, a group of seven Russian snipers named "Zvezda" does reconnaissance behind enemy lines to stop a planned Nazi tank offensive
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
A flare goes up in the night sky. A soldier watches intently. In the summer of 1944, after fierce battles, the Red Army had approached the USSR’s western borders. The soldiers say that Marchenko will get through. Lt. Travkin answers a phone call and has to say that Marchenko has not gotten through yet. Are they ready to cover the retreat? Yes. The Germans are quiet? Just then the Germans open with an artillery barrage.
A young woman runs from a house as it is hit by artillery shell shrapnel. A soldier throws his body over hers. When the shelling ends she tells him she is communications private Katya Simakova and this is her first day at the front. He tells Katya that she is beautiful and that his name is Captain Andrei Barashkin from Corps Headquarters. He says he will see her later. He leaves. When morning dawns and the fog clears Katya sees the terrible sights of dead and alive bodies torn apart.
Andrei says that the Corps HQ Chief wants a reconnaissance squad sent behind enemy lines to find out what the Germans are up to. They have already sent two squads out. The Captain is supposed to organize a new reconnaissance to break through. Another officer says that out of the 18 men sent out only two are left. The Captain says he has a few men.
Sgt. Mamochkin (or just Kostya, he says) introduces himself to Katya. Katya asks about the man she saw him with. Lt. Travkin, says Kostya. Katya and Kostya have lunch together. The lieutenant comes in and they jump to attention. Katya seems very taken with the lieutenant and the lieutenant seems almost shocked be Katya’s appearance. The lieutenant asks why are unauthorized persons here? Katya literally runs away, while Kostya hangs his head. Kostya tells the lieutenant that he shouldn’t have chases her away. She’s a very nice girl. The lieutenant says they are to go on reconnaissance.
The new men arrive for the reconnaissance. Sgt. Brazhnikov is their leader. He is from the First Ukrainian Front. Then there is Asian-Russian Private Temdekov. The other man is Private Bykov. Private Vorobyov comes over and asks permission to go. He says he speaks German. Permission granted.
When Katya sees the lieutenant and his scouts outside her window, she rushes out to speak with the lieutenant. They talk about Moscow.
The lieutenant is told that his scout group will be referred to as "star". The officer in charge says that Katya wants to go on the reconnaissance, but the lieutenant says he doesn’t need any more people.
The men eat together along with a former member of the squad Sgt. Vanya Anykanych. He asks where’s Marchenko? The downcast eyes indicates that he is dead. He is with a different unit, but will stay with them. The lieutenant only has to write the other unit and explain.
The men put on camouflage outfits. When Katya learns that the scouts are leaving she runs down to see them, but they have already left.
The scouts reports to Captain Barashkin. The lieutenant summarizes their orders for the men. It is believed that the Germans are reforming way behind their front. Their task is to ascertain the regrouping, determine its aim and character, and report it by wireless. Above all, they want to detect the place of enemy troops detraining, the area of tanks and infantry concentration, and to discover the enemy’s intentions. The captain adds that they are not to engage the enemy nor take prisoners. The men leave.
They are soon within German territory. The Germans move around and are virtually on top of them. But an artillery barrage opens up on the area and the distraction allows the men to get away.
Headquarters calls Captain Barashkin and he is able to tell them that it looks like they got through. Headquarters is happy about that.
As the men move through a field a German soldier spots them. Soon they are chasing after the group. To get away from their pursuers the men go into a marsh area. One fellow has to lead the way in case there are sink holes. The Germans listen for any movement in the marsh. They hear nothing. They leave. One fellow thinks he hears something so he fires his automatic weapon into the marsh reeds. Satisfied, he leaves.
The scouts dry off and call into headquarters that there are a lot of infantry in the sector. They see an S.S. unit pass by them. The conclude that his certainly is not just for defensive purposes. Then men see bodies floating down the river. They fish a body out of the water. A Star of David has been burned into the dead man’s back.
The men keep watch on an isolated building. They decide to grab a German soldier to get information from him. The German makes it easy for them as he decides to walk across the high meadow the Russians are hiding in. They grab him. He tells them he is with the 131st Infantry Division, sapper company. There are lots of SS in the area and the "Viking" tank division and the "Unero" crack troops are also here. He also says that he is not a Nazi. The German begs them not to kill him. But they have to. Sparrow (Private Vorobyov) has to go with the assigned executioner so he "will get the feel of it." He throws up upon witnessing the death of the man.
Captain Barashkin pays a visit to Katya. She immediately asks him if Lt. Travkin is still alive? The captains says, of course. She starts crying out of the fear that something might have happened to the lieutenant. The captain consoles her. He holds her a little too tightly and she has to tell him no, no. The captain quickly leaves.
The lieutenant is not happy when his men capture an SS officer. He says they blew their cover. They find maps on him. Now the men want to head to the radio station located on the map.
A German communique goes out: "On the tenth of this month the staff officer of the SS "Viking" Division’s motorized regiment Hauptscharfurer Benneke disappeared. His body was found 8 kilometers away from Headquarters." They speculate it could be the work of the "green ghosts" that have been sighted in the German sectors. All units are told to find and liquidate the enemy’s subversive group.
The scouts find what they think is the station. The lieutenant sends Anikanov, Bykov and Sparrow to check out the approaches to the station. Bykov jumps into the back of one of the German trucks. Anikanov prepares to run to the truck and hop in, when the German drivers suddenly appear, get in the trucks and drive off.
The lieutenant and his group have to jump off a road and back ilnto the vegetation when a German vehicle comes along. One of the Germans hears something and then sees the vegetation move, so he fires into it. The Germans continue on their way.
The bullets hit the radio on the back of the radio man. He apologizes to the lieutenant for not being able to safe it.
Along the road Bykov sees destroyed villages and hanged men. The trucks stop by a railway yard. Two men get into the back of the truck carrying Bykov and Sparrow who are hiding way in the back under a number of large gunnysacks. The sunshine comes through a hole in the tarp canopy and one of the Germans sees a reflection of Sparrow’s head. He slowly pulls his weapon and starts to go to the back. Just then Russian airplanes start bombing and strafing the railways and trucks.
Bykov and Sparrow jumpt out from the back of the truck. They have to kill one of the Germans who discovers them under the truck. The two Russians suddenly realize that the tanks are not real, but dummies. Sparrow and Bykov run into a German soldier. The German is getting the better of Bykov and is able to stab him a couple of times. Sparrow recovers from the shock of a bomb explosion and stabs the German with his knife. He helps get Bykov out of there.
Unfortunately Sparrow left the knife behind and a communique goes out that Sturmbannfurer Dille was stabbed to death with a Russian army knife during an air raid. The search for the subversive group has to be intensified.
The main group waits for the return of the two men. Suddenly Sparrow shows up, but without Bykov. He died from his wounds. They go back to find and bury the body. Sparrow tells the lieutenant that it is not the right station. He read in the captured papers that the Germans are delivering tanks to a quarry area.
The scouts go to check out the quarry. It is a real hub of activity. The two forward scouts decide to take a prisoner. An officer standing between two tanks is grabbed and taken back to the main group. He is an officer from headquarters. The Russians read through his papers and find out that two SS tank divisions have been sent in. The massive offensive will occur in two days. The men realize that they have to get back to inform their comrades.
The Germans realize that important papers have been taken from one of their officers. A massive manhunt is initiated involving 10,000 men.
Back at the unit the captain tells Katya, sleeping next to her work, to go and have a good sleep. Instead she takes over the radio trying to make contact with the reconnaissance group.
The scouts spot a radio operator at work in a building. They decide that they must get to the radio at all costs or everything they have done has been in vain. They still have the German officer with them. The radio man is killed from behind. Sparrow is able to hear the call from Katya. They, however, forgot to check out the entire room. A puppy shows himself and Sparrow goes to pull it from under the bed. He sees a German there and before and can pull back he is shot. His buddy kills the German. The shot alerts the guards and there is a massive shoot-out. German reinforcements arrive. The two groups exchange gunfire. The German officer with the Russians is hit and killed by his fellow Germans.
One of the scouts leads the Germans in a different direction. He hides from them and they leave. Worried that they find the main group he shoots at them again and takes off running. This time the Germans get him, but he provided valuable time for the others.
The men have the German radio with them and set it up in a barn. They hear and see the Germans coming. Sparrow is still alive. He tells them "left handle" for the radio. Sparrow dies. His blood running down through the floorboards of the loft. The Germans are closing in on them. They are everywhere now. They come into the barn. From the outside someone put up a ladder to inspect the loft. The German soldier looks into the loft and in shot in the face.
The Germans open up with everything they’ve got. The lieutenant tries for one last time to get through to headquarters. He succeeds. He relays the message to Katya. Concentrating in the area is the SS 5th tank division "Viking", consisting of the 90th motorized regiment "Hetman", 1-10th motorized regiment "Germany", 5th tank regiment, 10th battalion of self-propelled artillery, 5th field artillery regiment.
Sgt. Anykanych is grazed in the head from a sniper bullet. The sergeant gets mad and keeps firing his automatic weapon at the sniper until he kills him. But the sergeant in turn is hit and badly wounded. Finishing up his message, the lieutenant is hit in the back. The lieutenant finishes the broadcast and goes to check on Anykanych, who soon dies. The Asian-Russian is hit. And now the flame thrower is used. The barn becomes completely engulfed in flames.
The captain visits Katya again and sees her still calling for star. He tells her that the offensive will begin tomorrow and he radio will be cut-off. Katya looks at him and then goes back to calling for star. The captain leaves.
Travkin’s message caused a big stir in the division. The information was urgently sent to the front’s headquarters and from there to the Commander-in-Chief’s General HQ in Moscow. The German counteroffensive was foiled. The liberation of Poland began, for which half a million Red army soldiers and officers gave their lives. Captain Barashkin was killed near Sandomierz, by the Wisla. Katya Simakova saw the victory, returned to her native town, where she became a history teacher. She never married. In 1964 all the scouts were awarded posthumously Orders of the Patriotic War, 1st Degree.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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