Desperate times, desperate movies. “Sniper: White Raven,” based on real events, offers a gripping take on a Ukrainian teacher who, after a tragedy involving his wife amidst Russia’s beginning of its invasion of Ukraine, takes up arms and becomes a sniper. With the Russia-Ukraine war raging on and daily reports of death and destruction being bombarded our way, Sniper: White Raven carries the motifs of resilience and patriotism at a macro level, while at a micro level, it explores the dichotomy that the human mind has the ability to bear. Or we can also address the former as the smaller macro level, and the latter as the larger macro level as the human mind “is its own place and, in itself, can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven…” This description of the human mind by John Milton in his epic Paradise Lost fits aptly into the film’s plot, as we see how, even in the middle of a war (“hell”), Mykola and Nastya had formed their own “heaven” and were living happily, as well as how Mykola’s mind adapts to the “hell” around him after his “heaven” (wife and home) is snatched from him.
What Happens In ‘Sniper: White Raven’?
Ukrainian couple, Mykola (Pavlo Aldoshyn) and his pregnant wife, Nastya (Maryna Koshkina), live in a hovel that is dug into a hill. Both share the belief that difficult times lie ahead and that only by having an ecological way of life can the planet be saved. Mykola is a teacher who has not one but three higher education degrees to his name: in mathematics, physics, and ecology. Nastya is an artist who spends her days sketching different kinds of birds that come to their doorstep and the nearby trees. They also have the symbol on the ground in front of their home, that they made by assembling white rocks. The symbol is based on a legend in which a white raven sacrificed its feathers to create the world from darkness. Meanwhile, news of Russia’s having invaded Ukraine is everywhere, and Russian forces are slowly spreading.
One day, after returning from school, Mykola finds two Russian guards at his home; one of them is manhandling Nastya. Mykola runs towards the guard but is struck down by the other one. And so is Nastya. Then, as the two guards start to leave after setting the house on fire, an enraged and pained Nastya pulls herself up, and rushes towards them with a stone she picked up from the White Raven symbol. Sensing danger, one of the guards shoots and kills her, leaving Mykola in utter shock and pain. Later, he is discovered by two Ukrainian guards who bury Nastya and take Mykola to their camp. There, Mykola takes up the codename Raven and starts to train as a sniper. What follows is how Mykola gets better and better as a sniper and is able to bring down an enemy sniper who has been killing his Ukrainian brothers one after another and needs to be stopped as soon as possible.
The sign that Nastya made on the ground out of white rocks is ancestral. In legend, it is said that a raven created the world out of darkness by waving its wings, but in the process, it sacrificed its snow-white feathers. The fact that Mykola takes up Raven as his codename has great significance. Just like the Raven sacrifices his white feathers, Mykola too sacrifices his true nature. The Raven’s wings symbolize Mykola’s kind and nature-loving self. If we think about it, the way Mykola’s feelings of rage and revenge, which are rooted in the death of his wife, turn into a measure of his discipline and accuracy as a sniper, is bizarre. Perhaps this is what they mean when they say that one should not let the anger flow on its own but control it and channel it towards a purpose.
The token, a figurine of Mother Mary or an angel, that Mykola’s wife gave him, acts like a totem from Christopher Nolan’s Inception, which helps him realize what is real and doesn’t let his mind wander. He has it on him wherever he goes and on every mission. However, when Mykola finds the soldier who killed his wife, he disregards a direct order from his captain to not fire, and shoots and kills the soldier. But the soldier’s partner manages to hide and alert a sniper, who then shoots at them. The bullet hits Mykola’s captain, and he dies. In a way, here, too, the figurine did bring him back to reality by showing him the consequences of an action taken without assessing the facts and the risks involved.
It is interesting how the film uses the motif of camouflage from two opposite perspectives. At the beginning of the film, we see Nastya drawing a portrait of a bird as it feeds nearby. To make sure that the bird doesn’t notice her and flies away, Nastya has a ghillie suit on. On the other hand, we have Mykola, who puts on a ghillie suit to kill. Here, the ghillie suit is what connects them as well as differentiates one from another. There is also another way to look at it. What was for Nastya a way to get closer to nature becomes a way for Raven to kill.
‘Sniper: White Raven’ Ending Explained – Does Mykola Get His Revenge?
Towards the end of the film, the Raven, the Angel, and the camouflage motifs come together. Before Mykola, AKA Raven, is about to kill the Russian sniper, we see how he leaves his figurine in front of the sniper’s hide site. This is a way to show how the figurine has led Mykola, wearing his camouflage suit, to this moment where he can avenge not just the death of his wife but also that of his friends. As he plunges the knife down the Russian sniper’s neck and pulls it out, some of the blood that splashes out hits the figurine. This symbolizes how Mykola’s revenge has been served. He then goes to his burned-down shanty, where his wife’s grave is, and spends some time by her side before leaving. His job is not yet done. At the end of the film, we see him waiting for his target in the snow, again in a white snow ghillie suit, and the figurine right beside him, still guiding him. All clad in white, he is now a “White Raven.”
The contrasting beginning and end of “Sniper: White Raven” are what give the film its character. While some people might find it glassy and emotionless, it’s probably because not many of us realize what war feels like, no matter how much we claim we do after watching the news. And those who have or those who know how the atmosphere is during a war will tell that the word is not “glassy” or emotionless; it’s “bloody” and remorseless. And when there is the absence of remorse, emotions disappear as well.
“Sniper: White Raven” is a 2022 War Drama film directed by Marian Bushan.