While watching director Boris Kvashnev’s thriller The Narrow Bridge, I was reminded once again not to judge a book by its cover. Based on the synopsis and the artwork, I expected a one-dimensional, cheap, vulgar B-flick. Instead, Kvashnev and screenwriter Mirza Davitaia deliver a twisty, gripping plot buoyed by terrific performances. Sure, its approach to the current Russia-Ukraine conflict is a bit one-dimensional, and there are odd tonal lapses. Still, the bullet-speed unfolding of events almost renders these flaws immaterial.
From the get-go, Kvashnev doesn’t beat around the bush, thrusting the viewer into a deafening shootout. Soon after, Kiril (Roman Matsyuta), also known as The Magician and “one of the most wanted men by all military intelligence services,” gets stuck in a ditch. The wealthy Vitaly (Konstantin Kostyshin) comes to his aid. As Vitaly sounds Russian, Kiril speaks the language, introduces himself as Vlad, and accepts the man’s invitation to join him for dinner.
Upon arrival at the mansion – a stark standout to the dilapidated, gray, war-torn countryside surrounding it – Kiril/Vlad seems to recognize Vitaly’s wife, Katia (Svetlana Zelenkovskaya). Along for dinner is the frustrated, larger-than-life, alcoholic Russian general Vladimir (Borys Heorhiivskyi), who seems suspicious of their guest. Political discussions ensue until a phone call sets things in motion. Without spoiling the dramatic twists and turns, it’s safe to say that Katia’s friend, Geo (Zaza Chanturiya), comes into the picture, leading to a heavy-metal-scored chase scene involving a tank (!) and a confrontation on the titular bridge.
“…a heavy-metal-scored chase scene involving a tank (!) and a confrontation on the titular bridge.”
The plot of The Narrow Bridge moves along at a determined, confident pace, luring the viewer into the proceedings. The overtly sentimental flashbacks, therefore, are that much more jarring, as is the occasional nausea-inducing piano motif. Why in the world Kvashnev and Davitaia deemed it crucial to include what may be one of the most unintentionally-hilarious lovemaking sequences in the history of cinema will forever remain a mystery. It’s like one person helmed these ridiculous sequences and another the subtle, muscular ones.
There are quite a few of the latter, fortunately. A tense showdown outside Vitaly’s house skillfully splits into two threads: one involving his demise and another leading to an intense showdown at a cemetery. The dispassionate approach proves effective: major characters are killed off unexpectedly; it’s unclear whether justice or whatever semblance of it remains will be served. That said, the filmmakers don’t forget about the humanity barely brimming underneath those men’s calloused exteriors – well, most of them anyway (Vladimir is pretty evil, through and through).
Somewhat unrelated to the film itself, the subtitles need work, at times skipping entire passages of dialogue. The dialogue that is translated is done poorly, for some reason rephrasing and omitting things. It’s a good thing I understand the language, but your average non-Slavic viewers will most certainly find themselves confused.
Both the writer and director deserve kudos for the things they get right here. Regardless of your political stance, The Narrow Bridge is a solid thriller. If it had just a smidge more depth – and chucked the sap – it coulda been a contender.
For screening information, visit The Narrow Bridge website.
"…a twisty, gripping plot, buoyed by terrific performances..."