Pavlo Aldoshyn keeps watch over Ukraine's Russian border in "Sniper: The White Raven."

For all you fellow film freaks out there, maybe the Russian invasion of Ukraine has made you curious about what sort of movies they’ve made in that country. Odds are, you’re more familiar with Ukrainian actors like Mila Kunis and Vera Farmiga, who have made their careers closer to us. The Chernobyl Diaries and Everything Is Illuminated are English-language films made over there; more interesting is the no-language The Tribe, Miroslav Slaboshpitskiy’s crime thriller set at a school for the deaf. This weekend, the war film Sniper: The White Raven comes to our city’s Spanish-language movie theater, América Cinemas La Gran Plaza, and while it was made prior to the invasion, it’s quite pertinent.

Pavlo Aldoshyn stars as Mykola Voronenko, a long-haired high-school physics teacher in the Donetsk region in 2014 who tries to live with as little environmental impact as possible, generating electricity on his farm with a wind turbine that he built himself. His life is blown up when Russia invades the Crimea and their soldiers kill his pregnant wife (Maryna Koshkina) and burn down his house. The shattered man joins his country’s defense and learns to be a sniper despite being given an ancient Simonov SKS carbine that looks like a relic from World War II. He asks for and earns the code name “Raven” because the Ukrainian word for raven — “voron” — sounds like part of his name.

Director/co-writer Marian Bushan (whose one previous movie was a documentary about Romanian soccer coach Mircea Lucescu) goes through all the story beats familiar from war films. There is a cool bit early on in the classroom when Mykola reacts well to a student hitting his chalkboard with a spitball, but when that Russian student then calls him Ukrainian filth and says he has no right to be in the country, we know they’re going to meet again on the battlefield. Likewise, when Mykola’s spotter (Andriy Mostrenko) tells him about his daughters who think he’s on a business trip, we know he’s a dead man. And why does Mykola disobey orders in one encounter and take the shot that leads to his spotter’s death? Is it overconfidence or sheer blinding hatred of the enemy?

Lazy Moose Rectangle REVISED

Movies with snipers are always about the slow-burn thrills, and the one crackling sequence here is the climactic one when Mykola faces a Russian sniper (Oleg Drach) who’s heavily guarded and ensconced in a warehouse. Sniper: The White Raven doesn’t reinvent the wheel of war movies, but as it plays here on July 4th weekend, it’s worth a look as a film from a country that’s currently fighting for its independence.

Sniper: The White Raven
Starring Pavlo Aldoshyn. Directed by Marian Bushan. Written by Marian Bushan and Mykola Voronin. Rated R.