The Beast (1988 film)

The Beast (1988 film)

Infobox Film
name = The Beast

caption = Theatrical release poster
director = Kevin Reynolds
producer =
writer = William Mastrosimone
starring = George Dzundza, Jason Patric, Steven Bauer, Stephen Baldwin, Erick Avari, Don Harvey
music = Mark Isham
cinematography = Douglas Milsome
editing = Peter Boyle
distributor = Columbia Pictures
released = 1988
runtime = 111 min
country = United States
language = English/Pashtu
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
mpaa_rating = R
tv_rating =
imdb_id = 0094716

"The Beast" (also: "The Beast of War") is a 1988 Columbia Pictures war film directed by Kevin Reynolds and based on a William Mastrosimone play entitled "Nanawatai". The plot concerns a Soviet T-55 tank lost during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Plot summary

In 1981, a Soviet tank unit in Afghanistan destroys a Pashtun village, before one of the tanks commanded by the ruthless Commander Daskal (George Dzundza) gets separated from the unit, and enters a dead end valley.

Taj (Steven Bauer) returns to discover the village destroyed, and his brother gruesomely executed by being crushed under the tank by the retreating Soviet forces. As the new khan, following his brother's death, Taj is spurred to seek revenge by his cousin, the scavenger Mustapha - and together they lead a band of mujahideen fighters into the valley to pursue the separated tank, counting on their RPG-7 to destroy the tank.

The tank crew is made up of four Soviets and one Afghan. As night falls and the crew sets up camp, the Afghan tank crewman Samad (Erick Avari) teaches the tank driver, Konstantin Koverchenko (Jason Patric), about the fundamental principles of "Pashtunwali", the Pashtun people's code of honour: "melmastia" (hospitality), "badal" (revenge), and "nanawatai", which requires even an enemy to be given sanctuary if he asks (see Primary concepts in Pashtunwali).

We soon see that Commander Daskal, called "Tank Boy" during the Second World War for destroying a number of German tanks when he was eight years old in the Battle of Stalingrad, is ruthless not only to the enemy, but also to his men. He despises Samad and kills him on the pretext of suspecting him of collaborating with the mujahideen.

After Koverchenko threatens to report Daskal for the killing, Daskal orders the other two crewmen to tie Konstantin to a rock, with a grenade behind his head to serve as booby-trap for the mujahadeen. Some wild dogs come upon him and as Konstantin tries to kick at them, the grenade rolls down the rock and explodes, killing several dogs but leaving Konstantin unhurt.

A group of women from the village, who had been trailing the mujahideen to offer their support, come across Koverchenko and begin to stone him, calling for his blood as revenge. As the mujahideen approach, Koverchenko remembers the term "nanawatai" (sanctuary) and repeats it until Taj cuts him free, and allows him to follow their procession. That night, hidden in a cave, the fighters eat - and Taj asks Koverchenko if he will fix their broken RPG-7, and help them destroy the tank.

As the remaining three members of the tank crew begin to realize they are trapped in the valley, a Soviet helicopter appears and offers to rescue them. Daskal, caring more for his tank than his men, refuses the offer and simply refills the vehicle's oil and gasoline. They get their bearings from the helicopter pilot and head back into a narrow mountain pass, looking for the way out of the valley. The mujahadeen and Konstantin catch up with them and fire their last RPG round, but hit only the main gun. Just as it seems the tank will escape, an explosion in the cliffs above the tank sets boulders rolling onto it, disabling it at last. The explosion was set off by the village women.

The tank crew is forced out and Konstantin pleads "nanawatai" on their behalf. Taj reluctantly agrees. Konstantin tells Daskal that he wants him to live to see the Soviets lose the war, which is "no Stalingrad", and states that "It's hard to be a good soldier in a rotten is it that we're the Nazis this time?" The men flee on foot, but Daskal meets up with the women, who carry out their revenge by stoning him. Meanwhile, a rescue helicopter appears and despite the camaraderie that has developed, Konstantin goes with the helicopter. Taj orders his men not to fire on him as he is being hoisted up into the helicopter. Before he was hoisted up to the helicopter, Koverchenko salutes Taj by holding an old flintlock musket Taj gave to him earlier on above his head and the film ends with Koverchenko being hoisted up to the flying helicopter with the musket still in his hands.

Notable details

*Several actual T-55 tanks were used in the film although the helicopter used in the film was not a real Mi-8, it was an Aerospatiale SA.321 Super Frelon. The tank in question in the movie is actually an Israeli modification of a captured Soviet T-55, redesignated as the Ti-67. Many of these conversions were used by the Israelis during the 1973 war against Egypt. The film's military advisor, Dale Dye, has written that he negotiated the purchase of the tanks over drinks with Israel Defence Force officers in a Tel Aviv hotel. []
*Throughout the entire movie, the only Russian accents were the ones heard on the music radio.
*The language spoken by the Afghan characters is Pashtu. The Pashtu dialogue is subtitled but some television screenings have omitted the subtitles. []
*The character Moustafa wore Soviet medals, including the Order of Lenin, the Soviet Army 20 year service medal, the Order of the Red Banner, Order of the Red Star, and a couple of others, all of which were scavenged from dead Soviet troops.
*At one point during the movie, Konstantin mentions that among other problems they are getting low on Petrol. This is inaccurate, as all T-54/55 models are actually Diesel-fueled.
*Dzundza, notable for being quite heavyset in his other performances before and after The Beast, appears in this film to have undergone extensive physical training to fit the role convincingly, as being a tanker would require him to be much thinner and more athletic.
*By radio the song is the "Trolley bus", the most popular group of the Soviet Union - Kino.
*The machine gun that was attached on top of the T-55 was actually a Browning M2 dressed up to look like a DShK.

Notable quotations

*Put him under the track..."

*"We have no village, only "badal" (revenge)."

*"RPG, Kaboom!, Tank."

*"Tank boy, this is not Stalingrad!"

*"You can't be a good soldier in a rotten war."

*"Out of commission, become a pillbox. Out of ammo, become a bunker. Out of time, become heroes."

ee also

*"Afghan Breakdown"


External links

*imdb title|id=0094716|title=The Beast of War
* [ Notes on the production from military advisor Dale Dye]

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