A rush-hour fender-bender on New York City’s crowded FDR Drive, under most circumstances, wouldn’t set off a chain reaction that could decimate two people’s lives. But on this day, at this time, a minor collision will turn two complete strangers into vicious adversaries. Their means of destroying each other might be different, but their goals, ultimately, will be the same: Each will systematically try to dismantle the other’s life in a reckless effort to reclaim something he has lost.
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William Hundert is a passionate and principled Classics professor who finds his tightly-controlled world shaken and inexorably altered when a new student, Sedgewick Bell, walks into his classroom. What begins as a fierce battle of wills gives way to a close student-teacher relationship, but results in a life lesson for Hundert that will still haunt him a quarter of a century later.
The picture opens in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, in late 1988, when military trainees Petrovsky, Ryaba, Chugun, Stas, Pinochet, Lyutev and Vorobyev are whipped into shape at a training camp by the brutal, sadistic commander, Warrant Officer Dygalo – prior to being sent off to the front lines. After several one-by-one dalliances with the local whore, Snow White, and a cautionary lecture on the history, geography and culture of Afghanistan (which most of the men sleep through), the trainees head off to battle – first to the Bagram air base, then to the Afghani province of Khost to secure supply lines. But nothing can begin to prepare them for the brutal devastation into which they are plunged, or the relentless tide of slaughter that scatters thousands of Soviet victims in its wake.
In the Summer of 1965 a young man is filled with the life of the idyllic old pearling port Broome – fishing, hanging out with his mates and his girl. However his mother returns him to the religious mission for further schooling. After being punished for an act of youthful rebellion, he runs away from the mission on a journey that ultimately leads him back home.
Nick Smith, a middle-aged roadside diner owner, hires a drifter, Frank Chambers, to work at his restaurant. Frank quickly begins an affair with Nick’s beautiful young wife, Cora, and the two conspire to kill Nick and seize his assets. When they succeed, local prosecutor Kyle Sackett becomes suspicious, but is unable to build a solid case. However, the couple soon realizes that no misdeed ever goes truly unpunished.
Bennie travels to Buenos Aires to find his long-missing older brother, a once-promising writer who is now a remnant of his former self. Bennie’s discovery of his brother’s near-finished play might hold the answer to understanding their shared past and renewing their bond.