‘Sniper: The White Raven’ riveting, relevant film about Ukrainian spirit in war

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Rated R. In Ukrainian with subtitles. On VOD.

Grade A-

An alternately rousing and mournful call to arms, Ukraine’s “Sniper: The White Raven” is an amazingly relevant film at a time when Vladimir Putin has invaded Ukraine and waged war for four devastating months. The film begins in 2014 with the battle between Ukrainians and Russians and pro-Russian separatists in Donbas. It is in many ways a Ukrainian “American Sniper.”

Actor, musician and photographer Pavlo Aldoshyn is marvelously charismatic in the role of real-life Ukrainian sniper Mykolo Voronin, who co-wrote the screenplay. After the murder of his pregnant wife Nastya (Maryna Koshinka) at the hands of barbaric invading soldiers, Mykolo, a physics teacher and eco-settler in Donetsk, enlists in “sniper school,” where he undergoes rigorous training in scenes that will be familiar to fans of such films as “Full Metal Jacket.”

“Sniper: The Raven” is the more real and more resonant “Top Gun” movie. Before her death, Mykolo’s artist wife Nastya had given her husband, who takes the nickname Raven in her honor, a small, cross-shaped wooden angel she carved, swearing it would protect his life. Armed with the angel, which was saved from the fire set by the soldiers, and an old, banged-up sniper rifle, Mykolo earns his nickname in battle and is taken under wing by his paternal superior officer Cap (Andry Mostrenko).

“Sniper: The White Raven” resounds with the beats of war stories of this kind. But because it is set in Ukraine and based on a true story, it has more resonance and urgency than the current hit sequel to the aforementioned “Top Gun.” In opening scenes, Mykolo teaches a class the physics of speed and distance, two subjects that are going to be important to a sniper. One of his students is a pro-Russian separatist and a bully.

  • Ukrainian sniper Mykolo Voronin (Pavlo Aldoshyn) fights for his country...

    Ukrainian sniper Mykolo Voronin (Pavlo Aldoshyn) fights for his country in ‘Sniper: The White Raven.’ (Well Go USA Entertainment)

  • Ukrainian sniper Mykolo Voronin (Pavlo Aldoshyn) fights for his country...

    Ukrainian sniper Mykolo Voronin (Pavlo Aldoshyn) fights for his country in ‘Sniper: The White Raven.’ (Well Go USA Entertainment)



The oath the Ukrainian soldiers take as they are given their rank, “I serve the Ukrainian people,” has more ringing significance to us now, knowing what we know about the brave and righteous fight the outgunned Ukrainians have put up in the face of the Russian invasion. Aldoshyn’s Mykolo plays guitar and sings about “awakening” and “building strength.”

Four years after the beginning of the conflict, Mykolo hears someone on TV talk about how “Russia respects borders.” Mykolo drives himself back to the front to confront a Russian sniper capable of killing from a distance of 1.5 kilometers with a .50 caliber-sized gun. Talk about physics. Mykolo leads a raid on the sniper’s lair in a factory where cyanide is produced and stored, risking a disaster.

“Sniper: The White Raven” will appeal to combat film buffs and supporters of Ukraine alike. First-time feature film director and co-writer Marian Bushan, whose previous effort was a TV sports documentary, handles both the cast and the action well, painting evocative images in smoke and mist.

The film’s hero, Mykolo Voronin, returned to service after the Feb. 2022 invasion by Russia, something referred to in the film’s stirringly patriotic closing scene. He is presumed to be still fighting as the film about his life and exploits is released in the United States. He serves the Ukrainian people.

(“Sniper: The White Raven” contains war violence, bloody images, nudity and profanity.)

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