I was initially put off by the appearance of The Beast of War; cinematography wise the movie looked dull with most of the events taking place in a tank that wonders across a canyon in desert. But as the story evolved, I soon found the movie to be one of the more interesting and multi-layered war movies of the era.
Looking back now, it’s interesting how the movie antagonises the Russian invaders and represents the Afghan rebels as heroes who bravely stand up against the superpower that tries to take over the land as all know how this narrative was soon changed after the events that started in 2001. Secondly, the tank crew is depicted without thick comical Russian accent, which is still unheard of in Hollywood movies. Instead, they talk with American accents which can be only read as a statement that the two superpowers and their foreign policies aren’t really that different and both are known to start unjust wars to drive their own international politics. As the crew finds themselves on the run with an enemy that’s much better accustomed to the area, it’s not hard to see the correspondence to the Vietnam war.
Thirdly, although the pressure that the tank crew has to endure with is external, it’s the well portrayed internal pressure that really makes the movie: The commander’s power tripping, panic, paranoid and betrayal that the crew goes through are all interestingly documented here.
While I’m not going to change my opinion about judging books by the cover since it’s been a pretty good measurement with 80s movies, The Beast of War is a good reminder that sometimes it’s good to give a movie a fair chance despite its modest covers.