Fire Over Afghanistan (2003) Movie Review

In a lot of ways you have to respect the makers of “Fire Over Afghanistan”. These guys have almost no resources to speak off and yet they try to make a war movie set in Afghanistan anyway. If just for the logistic problems alone, this is the type of movie only reserved for either Hollywood studios or the b-movie masters known as the UFO film company, which seems to excel in making cheap, fake-looking Army helicopters, of which there are plenty in this movie.

“Fire Over Afghanistan” stars Jeff Stearns as Walker, a Blackhawk helicopter pilot with a death wish. Walker is serving in Afghanistan even though his fellow pilots want him out of commission because of, you know, that whole death wish thing. But Walker’s commander, played by Fred Dryer, wants Walker to stay because the suicidal pilot is the only one a local friendly Afghan warlord (Mihail Meltev) trusts. The warlord is valuable to the American military because he is locked in battle with not-so-friendly warlord Babashan (Dimitar Terziev). Later, the good warlord gets himself killed and Walker and crusading journalist Kris Andrews (Jordan Bayne) end up in a Blackhawk helicopter that gets shot down over Babashan’s territory.

I’ll have to admit, the story sounds pretty good, but alas the story is a lot better than the execution. Once again I struggle with cutting the movie a lot of slack if just because of its ridiculously low budget. In fact, I’m still a bit shocked they got Fred Dryer (“Death Before Dishonor”) to co-star in this film. Dryer has what amounts to an extended cameo, and since his scenes all take place inside a supposedly military bunker, I’ll wager he never bothered to fly over to whatever foreign country the movie was shot in.

Most if not all of “Afghanistan’s” exterior scenes were probably shot on location in one of the dozen or so former Russian satellite countries. Another clue in favor of this guess is the fact that all the actors playing Afghans seem to have Russian names, as well as looking Russian. I mean, come on, folks, I know Americans are generally considered to be ignorant when it comes to foreign lands, but some of us can tell the difference between Russians and Afghans. Especially in light of the recent Afghan war coverage, where we’ve been treated to more than enough Afghan faces to know the difference.

In a bit of unintentional humor, Walker’s co-pilot is named “Rodriguez”, but he’s obviously played by a Russian with a thick Russian accent. I guess besides counting on Americans not being able to tell the difference between a Russian from an Afghan, they were also counting on Americans not being able to distinguish between a Russian accent and a Spanish one. Hmm, I think I should feel insulted.

Obviously “Afghanistan’s” low budget dooms it to being mostly cheesy. Without belaboring the point too much, it’s a little hard to take the film’s bad guy seriously, especially since his supposedly formidable army consists of about a dozen or so gunmen. For that matter, even the supposedly good warlord only has about a half dozen guys in his “army”. In one hilarious scene, Walker and the good warlord are pinned down by bad guys during a nighttime gunfight, when Walker informs the warlord that he’ll “outflank” the bad guys and push them toward the warlord. Instead, Walker simply runs right at the bad guys firing away! You know, this guy has less military sense than I do.

But I am perhaps being too hard on the film. The screenplay by co-writer/director Terence H. Winkless seems to make an effort to give its leading man a lot of characterization. The same is true for reporter Jordan Bayne, whose character calls herself a “war slut” over some shots of whiskey. Walker’s death wish is explained by the death of his son, who was killed by a suicide bomber. Walker is still trying to get over it, although I’m not sure if making us sit through lengthy sequences of Walker brooding over this piece of his pathos numerous times is really necessary. Later in the film, Kris is captured by Babashan’s men and proceeds to get raped in the back of a moving truck. The rape is gratuitous and explicit, and stops short of just being downright over-the-top.

For an action film made on a very low budget, “Afghanistan” has a lot of action scenes. Of course they’re not overly competent, but if quantity is what you’re looking for I suppose you’ll get your fill. If I had to guess, I would say that the movie was shot on digital video, which may explain the “ghost” effect when characters move onscreen too quickly for the camera to properly capture. Or maybe this is the fault of the video transfer on the copy I saw. In any case, the film looks oftentimes like a home video. Albeit a home video with a lot of CGI helicopters and, I believe, one exploding CGI truck.

It’s perhaps all a bit too much ambition for what are very low resources. I suppose you have to give them some credit for trying something so ambitious. Then again, there’s something to be said about knowing, and then working, within your limitations.

Terence H. Winkless (director) / Terence H. Winkless, Raly Radouloff (screenplay)
CAST: Jeff Stearns …. Captain Jeff Walker
Jordan Bayne …. Kris Andrews
Fred Dryer …. Colonel Collins
Mihail Meltev …. Massood Hadjani

Buy Fire Over Afghanistan on DVD