This is not it... wait, what? It doesn’t look like Russia… we sound nothing like that – these are just some of the thoughts that bombard my head when I watch another movie, especially a Hollywood one, with “Russian” characters or featuring our beloved country. Have you ever come across some cringy stereotypes and could not help yourself but start laughing out loud? I have, for sure.
By now, you have probably watched a bunch of movies and can spot the difference between the real thing and the extremely exaggerated cliches. Well, without further ado, let’s go through some of them.
50 shades of gray, green, or any other color you can’t stand
Sometimes Russia is depicted like the sun hasn't shone here since 862 – all doom and gloom – steeped in Twilight's grayish hues. And A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) falls completely in line with this stereotype. This movie is in colors you would never use for your paintings, there are lots of Russian flags screaming this is Russia, and probably the brightest color is yellow; very unpleasant yellow – Dostoevsky’s yellow, I’d say. It’s artsy but not completely true (on a good day in St. Pete).
Deadly cold and eternal winter
Can you remember a single movie about Russia that wasn’t set during the winter? Maybe a sultry day before a thunderstorm in July or people splashing water in the sea? Neither can we. And here Transsiberian (2008) – with evil police officers, boorish saleswomen, no connection to the real world, and, of course, a lot of snow and a lot of vodka (no way!) – proves the point for the hundredth time.
But then we’re heading to Siberia (2018) – the most freezing place on Earth – to find no snow (ironically).
The Soviet Union has never been more alive
It’s been almost 30 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union but, I guess, Lenin is still hiding somewhere (and we all know where). But the USSR is for sure thriving in Red Sparrow (2018). The school’s interior with faded red curtains and mosaics makes you want to grab your hammer and sickle and complete your five-year plan in just three years.
Vodka, matryoshka dolls, bears, and ushankas
Do you remember Arnold Schwarzenegger in a wonderful ushanka from the all-time classic Red Heat (1988)? We do, too. Vodka appears throughout Killing Eve (2018) with clockwork frequency but I’d give this series an extra point for mentioning Korovka sweets. And Red (2018) – too many movies with Red in the name (is it the Soviet Union calling our names?) – could not do without showing bears (luckily not alive) at a Russian embassy. Just a coincidence? – don’t think so!
What is technology?
Hold my smartphone, and I’ll tell you a story: there are no technologies in Russia, at least that’s what movies say. In Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011), we can see Tom Cruise's character using a public payphone to get briefed on his mission. And Independence Day (1996) tries to prove to us that candles are much better than electric lights – it’s romantic, but not the 18th century.
Bad guys and misfits
I actually lost track of all the action movies with Russians being true villains: Ivan Drago from Rocky IV (1985), Yuri Komarov from A Good Day To Die Hard (2013), Grigory Rasputin from Hellboy (2004) – the list goes on and on. Now, we might also add the series Stranger Things (2016) as the third season is all about heroic American kids saving the world from Russian bad guys.
But my personal favorite is – drum roll – Lev Andropov from Armageddon (1988). He always drinks and wears his ushanka (not caring about zero gravity at all). Once, he saves the world (Houston, we do have a tech problem) in the most Russian way possible – by beating the hell out of a device. Well done!