'Cold War' - 'La La Land' meets 'Casablanca': A Brandon Schreur Film Review

Cold War

Looking for something that will make you feel hopeless, alone and like love is a complete myth that can only end in disaster? Cold War is the film for you, my friend.

From director Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War is a new historical drama that has earned itself an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Academy Awards.

And can I just stop for a second and point out how stacked of a category that is this year? I haven’t seen all the nominees yet, but Shoplifters, Cold War and Roma are all solid films that are well-deserving of their nominations. Academy voters may have dropped the ball in several other places (no recognition for Won’t You Be My Neighbor? or Three Identical Strangers in Best Documentary is pretty appalling, and don’t even get me started about Green Book’s Best Picture nomination), they at least came to play in this category.

Set shortly after WWII in Poland, Cold War is a romantic journey that’s set over the timespan of nearly a decade.

Cold War
credit: YouTube

Wiktor Warski (Tomasz Kot) and Zuzanna ‘Zula’ Lichoñ (Joanna Kulig) first meet in a small little Polish town during an audition for Wiktor’s latest play.

Wiktor, you see, is an incredibly talented musician who’s made massively successful plays and shows at this point, earning a reputation in the country for being an individual who nearly everyone wants to work with.

For whatever reason, he and his colleague Irena (Agata Kulesza) have decided they want to cast a bunch of unknowns in their latest production — a production that seemingly has something to do with peasants and immigrants, even though we’re never given the full details as to what the actual storyline is.

Zula walks in, unsure if she has the talent or skills to be cast, only to be told that her singing voice is beautiful and that she’s destined to be a star.

Cold War
credit: YouTube

Next thing you know, she’s cast in Wiktor’s play and, before you know it, the two of them end up falling deeply and madly in love.

A love that wasn’t built to last, mind you.

As time goes on, Wiktor and Zula constantly find themselves separated but unforeseeable events which separate them into different countries or even separate them to different people.

Yet, against literally all odds, the two of them have a funny way of always finding a way back to each other, even when it seems like fate itself is trying to keep them apart.

Cold War is a healthy dose of La La Land, Casablanca and Romeo and Juliet all thrown into one film that you might think is going to be an egregious three-hour long epic but really winds up only being 90 minutes long.

Cold War
credit: YouTube

That’s one of the strengths of the movie, too.

Pawlikowski doesn’t waste any of his run-time with minuscule details or subplots that don’t add anything to the story. He barely even sets up the romance between Wiktor and Zula to begin with, rather deciding to breeze through their introductions and butterflies to get to the actual meat of the story as quickly as possible.

The result is a very no-nonsense kind of film with no kind of excess fat on it whatsoever. Cold War knows what the audience came to see and it isn’t going to waste any time getting to it.

For the most part, that works pretty well.

While the set-up is minimal, we quickly become invested in the characters of Wiktor and Zula when we realize how much there is trying to keep them apart. Perhaps a little more backstory on the both of them would have been nice, sure, and the actual narrative of Cold War is presented in somewhat of a circular/repetitive motion that constantly sees them break up and then get back together time and time again, but it’s all pretty poignant and well-developed nonetheless, as the film is eventually able to get us where we need to go.

Cold War
credit: YouTube

To be honest with you, I think I found some of those circumstances surrounding the romance in Cold War even more interesting than the film itself.

For example, and I promise to keep details light here, Wiktor is presented with an interesting situation regarding his show pretty early on in the film.

After realizing that his latest production is going to be a hit and is going to gain nation-wide attention, Wiktor is approached by government officials who want to include some propaganda pieces within the play. Since everyone is going to spend the money to see it, they figure it’ll be a perfect opportunity to include some pro-Stalin messages in there.

Wiktor is pretty opposed to this idea from the get-go, but he can’t exactly say no, either — this is Stalin we’re talking about, after all.

Cold War
credit: YouTube

That creates a really interesting moral dilemma that I kind of wish had been a bigger focus in Cold War, as it’s prevalent in only the first half of the film before it just kind of goes away without factoring into the story again until the very end.

In the end, Cold War is exactly the kind of movie you’d expect it to be from the trailers.

It isn’t one that’s going to be accessible or even interesting to the mass audiences in the way that La La Land or even Casablanca were, but it’s going to play to a certain prestigious crowd of film-goers nonetheless.

Personally, I don’t think that Cold War is as deep or moving as the film might want you to think it is, but it’s good some good bits in there regardless. This isn’t a movie that you’re going to leave the theater feeling hopeful or happy once the credits start to role, but it isn’t one that you’ll feel was a waste of time, either.

Watch the trailer for Cold War here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the film!

'Cold War' - 'La La Land' meets 'Casablanca' [REVIEW]
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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.

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