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The Independent Critic

Adam Ferency, Adam Szyszkowski, Adam Woronicz, Agata Kulesza, Borys Szyc, Cedric Kahn, Drazen Sivak, Giorgio Rayzacher, Jeanne Balibar, Joanna Kulig, Slavko Sobin, Tomasz Kot
Pawel Pawlikowski
Rated R
89 Mins.
Amazon Studios

 "Cold War" is One of 2018's Finest Achievements 
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The first film from writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski since 2013's Academy Award-winning Ida, Cold War again finds the esteemed director garnering Oscar buzz for himself and the film with nods for Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Cinematography for Lukasz Zal's impeccable, exacting lensing. 

While the film is likely destined to rest far within the shadow of Alfonso Cuaron's even more highly praised Roma, Cold War is a vastly superior film in just about every way possible. Pawlikowski sets his film in late 1940's Poland, telling a story inspired by the lives of his parents during a time when Poland was a ravaged nation having been overrun by not one but two savage military forces inflicting their wills upon the nation. It is against this backdrop that he places the story of Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), a musician and a member of a propaganda troupe, and Zula (Joanna Kulig, whose participation he enlists and with whom he begins a romance that endures decades of social and political upheaval. 

Cold War falls shy of the emotional resonance of Pawlikowski's Ida, a film that was one of my favorites the year it was released and a film I continue to revisit time and again. Yet, Cold War is a magnificent film for what it does accomplish - stunningly photographed in black-and-white by Zal and marvelously acted across its flawless ensemble. 

Tomasz Kot's Wiktor is perfectly representative of the period's urban intellectual, whose ability to weave faux authenticity toward Poland's rural folks proves a perfect tool for the newly established Communist government seeking artistic in-roads to influence the Polish people and to magnify Stalin's image. Endlessly chain-smoking and possessing of more than a little swagger, Kot's Wiktor is the kind of sublimely charismatic figure that the authorities in charge desperately want to attract though there's little denying we figure out early on that he's met his match in Kulig's Zula, a self-assured and self-aware peasant girl limited only by her circumstances. Both of the young lovers ultimately question authority in their own individual ways, rubbing the domineering anti-semitic Kaczmarek (Borys Szyc) the wrong way and to such a degree that an escape West seems inevitable. 

Pawlikowski keeps Cold War's pace moving briskly, the film's 89-minute running time perfectly suited to the story being told and Pawlikowski's objectives being attained. The dialogue here is surprisingly slight, Pawlikowski telling his story here utilizing the entire screen from Zal's unforgettable imagery to original music that is a story unto itself. 

Everything matters here. 

While Kot is sublime here, Joanna Kulig is the film's true breakout with a performance that is destined to lead to a wealth of new cinematic opportunities. Pawlikowski has created yet another masterpiece here, one that seems ever so slightly less than the practically perfect Ida yet one that intelligently and with emotional honesty weaves together both the political and emotional desperation of a generation and the worlds they left behind and then the worlds they subsequently created. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic