Jack Strong: a gripping Cold War drama
by Saara Vahermägi
- Wladyslaw Pasikowski’s latest feature is an engrossing espionage film based on the true story of Polish Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski
Based on true events, Wladyslaw Pasikowski’s Jack Strong [+see also:
film profile] tells the story of Ryszard Kuklinski (Marcin Dorocinski), a Polish military officer whose actions during the height of the Cold War played a key role in the collapse of the Soviet regime in Poland. The movie starts off with a very gruesome killing of a Polish spy, making it clear to the viewer how a “traitor” of Soviet Poland can expect to be punished. The movie then jumps ahead, introducing the life of Kuklinski – a widely respected, high-ranking officer who is also a husband and a father of two. But Kuklinski, like many others, isn’t at ease with what is happening in his country – Poland is becoming more and more communist, and is losing its true identity. He then decides to act, becoming a spy for the CIA, forwarding his American allies classified documents and being assigned the codename Jack Strong. As time goes by, the pressure mounts for Kuklinski – avoiding capture becomes harder and harder, while at home his two sons and wife accuse him of negligence, unaware of his secret life as a spy. Towards the end of the movie, Jack Strong picks up the so-far moderate pace when Kuklinski is finally found out, and he reveals the truth to his family. They then make a run for their lives which results in a thrilling, edge-of-the-seat car chase with stylish, old-school automobiles speeding away down the streets of wintry Poland.
With his film screening today at the CinEast Festival in Luxembourg, Pasikowski has done a terrific job of producing a classy spy thriller, reminiscent of Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy [+see also:
film profile]. As in that movie, the style and the well-balanced timing of the storytelling are definitely the film’s fortes – right up until the last minute of the story, the viewer can’t be too sure of how things are going to end.
Dorocinski gives a skilful performance as Kuklinski. As in his previous films Loving [+see also:
film profile] and Rosa, he stays true to his style of playing the restrained, in-control type of character, which isn’t a bad thing – it requires the viewer to pay close attention in order to fully understand Kuklinski’s inner thoughts and emotions.
Even though Kuklinski is a controversial figure in Polish history (some still see him as a traitor), Pasikowski’s portrait is unquestionably an ode to a national hero.