Film of the Day - The Bomber

Ekaterina Astakhova and Nikita Efremov on the set of The Bomber

Ekaterina Astakhova and Nikita Efremov on the set of The Bomber


A movie for every day of the year – a good one



1 July


SOS adopted, 1908

On this day in 1908, the second International Radiotelegraphic Convention became effective. It made standard the Morse code distress signal of three dits, three dahs, three dits, which had first been adopted by the German government three years earlier. Three dits is the Morse code for S, three dahs for O, hence SOS. It is not an acronym for anything – not Save Our Souls, nor Save Our Ship, or Send Out Succour – and the first ship to use it was the Cunard liner Slavonia (10 June 1909) or the steamer SS Arapahoe (11 August 1909), it’s not clear which. Though still widely recognised, it was abandoned as a radio distress signal in 1999, when it was replaced by automatic radio beacons and satellite positioning technology.




The Bomber (2011, dir: Vitaliy Vorobyov)

The Bomber started life as a Russian TV mini-series, then its eight long episodes were cut down and squeezed into a three-hour movie slot. The result is not perfect – there are clear “go to ad break” moments still visible – but the film is certainly better than a lot of Second World War movies. In fact that is damning with faint praise. Because what we have ended up with is a film of great pace and sweep, a really well cast adventure that focuses on a trio of characters – a brave him, a heroic her and a dastardly dastard who keeps changing sides in the war the Soviets are waging against the Nazis. Nikita Efremov plays the honest son-of-Russia pilot Grivtsov, Aleksandr Davydov is Linko, the cowardly turncoat navigator, and Ekaterina Astakhova is the radio operator Katya, a trio shot down somewhere over the Ukraine, whose subsequent journeys back to base will see them bumping into each other, bumping into Nazis, fighting, escaping and, for two of them at least, doing a fair bit of big-eyed amorous staring. This inclusion of a woman in a war film adds a frisson of sex to the usual mix of guns, Nazis, explosions and Messerschmitts at 3 o’clock. And the fact that Astakhova is in a more than decorative role is one of the things that mark out The Bomber. Another is the way the film both expresses the centrality of the Second World War in the Russian psyche – no wonder when you consider that the UK and US lost about 450,000 people apiece; the Soviet Union more like 25 million – and the current attempt by the Russia to pull on the uniform of the old Soviet Union.
It’s a film strong on despicable Nazis, adept at staging an action sequence, whether it’s a running gun battle, the torching of a peasant village or the blowing of a train off the rails. But it doesn’t rely exclusively on big bangs and running around (it’s not The Expendables, I mean) to rack up the tension. That comes through old-fashioned dramatic craft – the will they/won’t theys.
Some people won’t enjoy the obvious propagandistic elements. But though it’s clearly banging the drum for the Soviet Union, The Bomber doesn’t paint it as whiter than white, and in its message of cleaving close to the homeland, the power of collective action, the simple love of the soil, it’s not so far from any John Wayne war movie. The subtitling, if your Russian isn’t up to it, is a bit of problem too, though the forward thrust, the strong characters and the boldness of the story does help paper over a few of the translation’s more leaden moments. Don’t let these put you off, or the other reviews I’ve seen, which seem to focus unnecessarily on this film’s deficiencies rather than its strengths – astonishingly good casting, a great story, fine writing and well staged action. All in all a fascinating war movie, impressive, engaging and, most of all, great entertainment.



Why Watch?


  • Vitaliy Vorobyov’s vivid direction
  • Its solid cast
  • The light it shines on the Soviet Union’s war experience
  • A reminder of the role women played in the war


© Steve Morrissey 2014



The Bomber (aka Ballada O Bombere) – Watch it now at Amazon





imdb poster The Bomber
Ballada o bombere
Run time: Video 181 min
Rating: 6.6
Genres: Action | Drama | War
Director: Vitaliy Vorobyov
Writers: Mikhail Veller, Arkadiy Tigay
Stars: Nikita Efremov, Ekaterina Astakhova, Aleksandr Davydov
Trivia: The Bomber (2011) / (Russian language title: Ballada o Bombere) Storyline During World War II, a soviet aircraft crashes on Nazi-occupied territory. But the pilot Grivtsov and his beloved … See full summary »
Storyline The Bomber (2011) / (Russian language title: Ballada o Bombere) Storyline During World War II, a soviet aircraft crashes on Nazi-occupied territory. But the pilot Grivtsov and his beloved radio operator Katya miraculously survive. Another survivor is flight navigator Linko, who ejected from the plane. Each of them has to find his way and perform military tasks, return to his own forces and simply to stay alive. The situation becomes more complicated because of an act of sabotage, which has been committed before their take-off at the aerodrome. Honest Grivtsov gets on the bad side of the colonel of SMERSH by defending his friends. Instead of being granted a medal “Star” for his 100th flight, he is pronounced a traitor and is to be executed. Written by FILM.UA Group
Plot Keywords: traitor, sabotage, behind enemy lines, airplane shot down, tupolev tu 2 bomber