Ewan Gleadow

Review: Cold War

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“Robbery” is the word I would use for Cold War’s loss at the Oscars earlier this year.

Bested by Roma in both Foreign Film and Directing categories, Pawel Pawlikowski was robbed of celebrating his success with the Hollywood elites. I suppose that does add some strange level of ambiguity and interest to Cold War, which is as dark as its black and white colour scheme, and as interesting as the movies it homages.  

Cold War‘s strengths lie in its stylistic approach and pacing. Pawlikowski’s decision to film in 4:3 and in black and white seems more a growing trope of the independent scene than a practical choice but it makes the movie work, giving it an extra edge that it would have lost with the introduction of colour.

The black and white shots beautifully fit the tone and setting of the movie, which is unwelcoming, cold and cruel. It’s a brilliant stylistic choice, one that adds substance and mixes eclectically into the plot of the movie. 

Perhaps the weakest link of the movie is the chemistry between Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot. Although not bad, it’s not convincing enough to build the movie around their relationship. Because of this, there are times where Cold War faulters or misfires in its attempts at hooking its audience. Kot is superb as Wkitor Warski, often left in the dark and his future uncertain. The diversity of his brief meet-ups with Kulig’s Zuzanna Lichon does a good enough job to keep the relationship somewhat fresh, though the chemistry doesn’t linger for all that long when the two are on the screen together.  

If only something more had been done with the supporting cast too.

Although nice as a closed-focus movie, only two characters really matter in the long run; it feels like some depth to surround the characters could’ve gone a long way in supporting the occasionally plodding chemistry. That said, strong direction and stronger cinematography from Lukasz Zal is more than enough to make up for what the leads are lacking.  

 Given the build-up and shaky chemistry between the two leads, the ending is what saves Cold War from middling quality. It’s a shocker, coming out of nowhere yet fitting with the tone of the movie on the whole; it’s a real ending, satisfyingly culminating the journey of two characters that were explored in-depth and thoroughly in just a short hour and a half.

Pawlikowski’s direction is something to appreciate and the performances of Kulig and Kot are strong enough to more or less carry the movie.  Cold War is a real gem that will be regarded as a fitting and beautiful piece of cinema for years to come.