Excellence from start to finish.

Ryszard Kuklinski is a name practically every person outside of Poland wouldn’t recognize today.  However, according to the movie Jack Strong, he’s one of the most important figures in putting an end to the Cold War–a real hero to his people and the West.  It seems that this Polish military officer was a very, very important spy who risked his life to undermine the Soviets who controlled his nation.

The movie begins with a very grisly killing.  Fortunately, you don’t really get to see very much–and it’s the last scene like this in the film.  The man who was killed was apparently a Pole who was spying for the West–and his reward when captured was being tossed into a blast furnace!  A forewarning of what could happen to the leading character in this film.

Jack Strong
Written & Directed by
Wladyslaw Pasikowski
Marcin Dorocinski, Maja Ostaszewska, Patrick Wilson
Release Date
June 2014
Martin’s Grade: A

Now the story jumps ahead a few years to 1968–the year that the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia to destroy the Czechs’ attempt at self-rule.  One of the men responsible for this plan, ironically, was Kuklinski (later code named ‘Jack Strong’).  While he hated the Soviets, he was, at the time, a man who worked closely with them in his capacity with the Polish military.  But as the years pass, Kuklinski becomes more and more disenchanted with the system.  Like most Poles, he longs for his country to be free of Soviet domination.  After a harsh attack on some protesters, Kuklinski finally made up his mind–he’ll secretly pass on secrets to the Americans.  And, over the next decade, he was instrumental in passing on many important military secrets–including plans for a possible invasion of the West as well as plans to start a nuclear war!

Exactly what happens next is vague–and that’s the best part of the film.  Kuklinski’s fate is something the viewer isn’t aware of until the very end and the film does a great job of keeping you on the edge of your seat–especially when Kuklinski is discovered and he and his family has to make a run for their lives.

A few years back, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy came out and many critics were beside themselves praising this spy thriller.  It also received three Oscar-nominations.  Well, I tried watching it twice–and both times found myself falling asleep.  I wasn’t all that impressed and I was happy when I talked to others that they, too, found the movie rather dull.  However, in the case of Jack Strong, the film never bored me for a second.

Part of this could be because the film is a true story but a lot of the credit goes to the fine acting and excellent direction by  Wladyslaw Pasikowski–it is excellent from start to finish.  It is so well constructed and interesting that I wouldn’t be surprised if this film also is Oscar-nominated.   The only question I have is for which category?  Although most of the film is in Polish, much is also in English–so I have no idea if it’s even eligible for the Best Foreign Language nomination.  Additionally, even today, the Poles are deeply divided in their feelings about Kuklinski–and many still consider him a traitor.  Because of this, the Poles might not even submit it for the competition even if it is eligible.  Regardless, it’s well worth seeing–exciting and intelligently made from start to finish.

by Martin Hafer