Cold War movie poster
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Cold War
Cold War movie poster

Cold War Movie Review

Available on Blu-ray and DVD on November 19, 2019 (Buy on Amazon)

Cold War is the type of movie that makes regular moviegoers hate film critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 90% Fresh rating with a “consensus” that describes the film as “a brilliantly stark visual aesthetic to match its lean narrative [that] doesn't waste a moment of its brief running time -- and doesn't skimp on its bittersweet emotional impact.” Some of my colleagues, who I respect most of the time unless I disagree with them, have called it “sublime.”

Well, damn, this is a must-see drama of epic proportions, right?

The thing is: Cold War is pretty boring. The movie looks great with its striking black-and-white visuals (the less that can be said about the pretentious decision to film the movie in 4:3 ratio rather than filming in a format that fits modern movie screens and televisions, the better), but don’t be lulled by critics cooing about the technical aspects of the movie when the story, as heartfelt and well-acted as it is, will hold your attention for at most five minutes.

Cold War is a love story, and the chemistry between stars Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig is quantifiable. Both Kot and Kulig deliver strong, nuanced performances, but the emotional impact of their sprawling relationship, set in Europe during the beginning of the Cold War, is muted by writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski’s overly tight and restrained storytelling approach.

Kudos to Pawlikowski who made a movie few will want to sit through only 90 minutes, but while each tightly edited and deliberately staged scene is strong on its own, the whole is less than its parts. You never really get to know the characters as Pawlikowski drops us into their lives for brief moments every couple of years, and their exchanges, while again well acted, are so nuanced the entire movie borders on flat.

Clearly other critics felt differently, but then other critics are apparently swept away by beautifully filmed but emotionally inaccessible films regular audiences won’t want to waste their hard-earned cash on. The good news is, if you really, really want to watch it, it’ll probably be on Amazon Prime in a couple months.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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