Solo Journey

[Одиночное плавание]

film still

USSR, Mosfilm, 1985, Color, 91 min. In Russian and English (voice-over dub, no subtitles).
Directed by Mikhail Tumanishvili.
Script: Evgenii Mesyatsev.
Camera: Boris Bondarenko.
Editing: Svetlana Lyashinskaya.
Sound: Aleksandr Khasin.
Music: Viktor Babushkin.
Art Director: Villi Geller.
Production Design: Tatyana Lapshina and Aleksandr Myagkov.
Consultants: Vice-Admiral F. T. Starozhilov and Lieutenant-Colonel L. S. Gremyachkin.
With: Mikhail Noshkin (Shatokhin), Aleksandr Fatyushin (Kruglov), Sergei Nasibov (Danilov), Nartai Begalin (Parshin), Vitalii Zikora (Harrison), Arnis Litsitis (Hessalt), Nikolai Lavrov (Griffith), Veronika Izotova (Caroline).

War games in the Pacific Ocean. The Soviet and American military are staging their annual maneuvers. Meanwhile in Florida, some sinister men in casual wear are talking business at a golf resort. Regrettably the thaw in Soviet-American relations means severe profit losses for the military-industrial complex. A plan is developed to sway public opinion against the Soviet Union in order to get democracy ready for another arms race. With the help of the CIA and an official US policy of "plausible deniability," a rogue operations team under the leadership of commander Hessalt is assembled. Hessalt, who was able to live out his sadist fantasies in Vietnam by burning villages, is nonetheless plagued and traumatized by his actions. His final mission now is to sink a passenger ship on its way from Singapore to San Diego, so that the Soviet Navy can be blamed. But just as the passenger liner is about to be destroyed, a private yacht shows up. Treasure hunter and all-around man of leisure Jack Harrison and his wife Caroline are cruising towards a seemingly uninhabited island group, which actually houses a secret CIA base. Hessalt destroys Jack's boat, but the two make it to the island when a Soviet Navy ship intercepts their SOS signals. For the Russian sailors aboard, seasoned Special Forces warriors at a time when wars are mainly fought by "button pushers," this means another deployment and another day spent away from a Russian harbor. They are dispatched to the island in order to help the two shipwrecked Westerners and investigate the strange missile attack on their boat. At night Hessalt's group attacks and kills a Russian officer and Caroline. The secret base is discovered and a fierce battle ensues between the Russians and Hessalt's men. In the fight they are joined by Jack who wants to avenge Caroline's death. In the meantime, Hessalt has gone completely rogue and has developed some horrific ideas of his own. He is going to launch a nuclear missile that is capable of hitting San Diego or Vladivostok and time is running out. Now the only ones that can prevent a catastrophe are the intrepid fighters from the Soviet fleet, far away from home on this tiny island in the vast Pacific.

While Solo Journey is a formulaic film that could easily have followed the blueprint of any Hollywood action movie, it nonetheless exhibits some interesting tensions and disavowals. Even though the film is mesmerized with military hardware and exotic locations and the production design is remarkable for its fetishization of technology, its ostensible sympathy lies squarely with the hometown boys who make up the Soviet Navy. The film, which won a special award for its "original solutions for the theme of patriotic heroism" at the Alma Ata Film Festival in 1986, stages the question of fighting in the name of a just cause: it pits man versus machine and the human soul against brainwashed killers. However, the appeal of military technology threatens to overwhelm this dichotomy. In its resolution, therefore, the film resorts to some interesting maneuvers in order to validate its own fascination with dehumanization by framing the narrative as a "silent" story of sacrifice hidden behind official press releases and policy directives.

Mikhail Tumanishvili

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Mikhail Tumanishvili was born in Moscow in 1935. He was trained as a theater and film actor in the Shchukin School of Theater where he graduated in 1957. He acted on stage in the Pushkin Theater in Moscow and in films such as Leningradskaya Simfoniya (1957), Zhizn Snachala (1961) and Armageddon (1962). Since 1964 he worked as an assistant director for Mosfilm until his directorial debut with Otvetnii Khod in 1981. He has made 11 films to date.

1981 Countermove (Otvetnii Khod)
1982 Incident at Map-Grid 36-80 (Sluchai v Kvadrate 36-80)
1984 Line of Resistance (Polosa Prepyatstvii)
1985 Solo Journey (Odinochnoe Plavanie)
1987 Free Fall (Svobodnoe Padenie)
1989 Avariya – Cop's Daughter (Avariya – Doch Menta)
1991 Wolfhound (Volkodav)
1993 Stalin's Testament (Zaveshchanie Stalina)
1995 Crusader (Krestonosets) (co-directed with Aleksandr Inshakov)
1998 Yukka (Yukka)
2000 Turetskii's March (Marsh Turetskovo)

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