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Bucha Review | A Brutal True Story Looks at Russia’s War on Ukraine


Bucha Review | A Brutal True Story Looks at Russia's War on Ukraine


Summary

  • A focused look at the violence committed by Russia during the invasion of Ukraine, told from the perspective of a real-life hero.
  • Well-executed war scenes and a compelling villain make
    Bucha
    a gripping and important cinematic experience.
  • The film falls short in developing Konstantin’s character fully, portraying him as a sugarcoated hero without many layers.



On February 24th, 2022, the entire world was rocked to its very core when news broke that Russian forces had begun to storm Ukraine. Over time, these continuous and aggressive actions towards the latter country have consistently been called the biggest attack on any European country since World War II. One of the earliest but most startling maneuvers from Russia came not even a month later, on March 4th, when Vladimir Putin’s military began their horrendous assault on one of Ukraine’s towns. In what is known as the Bucha Massacre, close to 500 innocent victims were mercilessly killed during a series of war crimes.


The Russian offensive was finally forced to retreat from that city thanks to the bold stance of the defensive forces in late March. But such a harrowing event cannot and should not be forgotten. Not only were the Armed Forces of Ukraine deeply involved in defending Bucha, but it has also become known that some brave individuals also put themselves on the line day in and day out to swiftly evacuate trapped Ukrainian civilians from these dangerous zones. While bringing an overall awareness to these desperate times during the Russian assault on Ukraine, director Stanislav Tiunov has decided to spotlight one of these heroic people in his new film titled Bucha.


An Outsider Saves Ukrainians in Wartime

Bucha

Bucha

4/5

Release Date
December 8, 2023

Director
Stanislav Tiunov

Cast
Sergey Strelnikov , Cezary Lukaszewicz , Artemiy Egorov , Vyacheslav Dovzhenko , Oleksandr Pecherytsia

Writers
Oleksandr Shchur

Pros

  • An important look at the violence Russia is perpetrating against Ukraine.
  • Well-orchestrated war sequences and a great villain.
Cons

  • Konstantin’s character is not fleshed out and remains one-dimensional.


Tiunov’s film, the first narrative feature shot in Ukraine since the invasion started, tells the story of Konstantin Gudauskas (named Kazakhstan Konstantin in Bucha and played by Polish actor Cezary Lukaszewicz. Gudauskas was given political asylum in Ukraine many years ago, contextual information that plays into the movie quite speedily. The future real-life hero was then granted ease of pathway between the two countries whenever he wished.

Using his unique power at a time of need, the “angel of salvation” transported over 200 people out of Russian-occupied territory and back into a place of safety. As much as a story about such an individual already sounds like an inspiring biographical drama, it cannot be forgotten that this is a movie about war — and war, if nothing else, is very traumatizing. As such, Bucha is not for the faint of heart, though the more disturbing moments in the movie tend to happen offscreen, with the viewer given a glimpse into how people psychologically handle the aftereffects.

Related: 8 War Movies We’re Looking Forward to in 2024


Bucha Has a Classic Villain

While Lukaszewiscz’s Konstantin does take the necessary steps into becoming a confident and inspirational hero during the course of the movie, the horrors of a merciless war end up plaguing our main character every step of the way. These distressing sequences (in all the ways that they are delivered to the viewer) help convey a raw, unforgiving authenticity for Bucha. It could be said that each one builds on the last event’s suspense.

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Orchestrating many of these devastating sequences is the film’s antagonist, the Russian military leader Strelnikov, played by Vyacheslav Dovzhenko. He’s a very daunting and formidable villain who has no goals in mind except for the invasion to proceed without any hitches, and will stop at nothing to achieve this. Dovzhenko easily portrays his character’s almost animalistic savagery while also never becoming a hyperbolic caricature of a villain. The differing motivations, ideals, and acting between Strelnikov and Konstantin make the inevitable confrontation thrilling to anticipate.

Too Soon? No, Bucha Is Needed

A group of Ukrainians flanked by Russian soldiers in Bucha
Film.UA Group


Some may argue that it’s too early to release a film like Bucha. Even though it’s been more than two years since that fateful day, Ukraine is still in the trenches of war — doing its best to defend itself from Russian invaders. But an emotionally captivating film that provides context on the beginnings of an ongoing violent conflict is politically and culturally invaluable. Yes, the story’s direction technically veers out of Bucha sometimes, and the film flirts with pure propaganda, but writer Oleksandr Shchur did his best to also make it as authentic as possible.

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By balancing a harsh and unforgiving story with a cast of characters that persevere through the toughest of times, Bucha easily becomes not only a powerful film but also a cinematic stimulant towards those more fortunate in other countries who could potentially be driven to help the war effort. But in saying that, the decision to add a biographical aspect to the 2023 thriller came at a price. In order to make the film that much more sympathetic towards the Ukrainian war effort, Lukaszewiscz’s Konstantin character isn’t given enough time and attention to be fully formed.


A Sugarcoated Main Character

Cezary Lukaszewicz's Kazakhstan Konstantin
Film.UA Group

The real life Konstantin Gudauskas allegedly had somewhat of a criminal notoriety to his name before the war started (according to the court cases and people who were around him in his homeland). We don’t get much of that in Bucha, nor anything else which would’ve fleshed out his character outside the rapidly paced introductory scene which comes and goes in the blink of an eye. As such, he becomes more of an archetypal ‘angel’ figure without multidimensionality, and is less relatable.

But Bucha does still deliver an exceptional job when it comes to putting a magnifying glass on one of the first atrocities involved in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The presentation of wartime events is neat and concise while also finding time to tell the story of a courageous war hero.


Distributed by Film UA, Bucha just concluded a U.S.-based, month-long screening tour in March under a project titled Art Against Propaganda, which opposes Russian propaganda worldwide. In 2023, the film had special screenings all over the world, such as the 80th Anniversary International Film Festival in Venice and the Berlin International Film Festival. For more information, please visit Bucha‘s official website.

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