1920: Battle of Warsaw

A good, old-fashioned war movie with spectacular action, a cast of thousands and a decent love story holding it all together.

With: Natasza Urbanska, Borys Szyc, Daniel Olbrychski, Krzesimir Debski, Jerzy Bonczak, Adam Ferency, Wiktor Balabanow, Igor Guzin, Boguslaw Linda, Ewa Wisniewska, Aleksander Domogarov, Olga Kabo. (Polish, Russian dialogue)

A good, old-fashioned war movie with spectacular action, a cast of thousands and a decent love story holding it all together, “1920: Battle of Warsaw” rousingly recounts how Poland routed the invading Bolshevik army shortly after World War l. Vigorously directed by veteran hitmaker Jerzy Hoffman and beautifully lensed by ace d.p. Slawomir Idziak, Poland’s first 3D feature hit domestic paydirt following its Sept. 30 release and scored strongly on British screens; the marketing advantage of 3D should help the pic secure further offshore exposure.

With foreign-language Oscar nominee “The Deluge” (1974) and all-time Polish B.O. champion “With Fire and Sword” (1999) to his credit, Hoffman excels at mixing lusty historical drama with blood-and-thunder military action. Now almost 80, the helmer demonstrates here that his command of cinematic technique is as muscular as ever.

Crisp screenplay by Hoffman and Jaroslaw Sokol commences with pictures of optimism in post-WWI Poland, which has become independent for the first time since 1795. The hub of gaiety is the Cafe Oasis, where beautiful chanteuse Ola (Natasza Urbanska) is romanced by cavalry officer Jan Krynicki (Borys Szyc). Within minutes of their exchanging wedding vows, however, Jan is called away to fight the advancing Bolsheviks.

The state of military and political play is efficiently laid out in parallel action showing Lenin (Wiktor Balabanow) and Stalin (Igor Guzin) plotting the invasion, while chief of state Marshall Jozef Pilzudski (Daniel Olbrychski) organizes Poland’s resistance.

Once the basics are covered, Hoffman launches into meaty battle scenes involving hundreds of Polish cavalrymen charging into thousands of Bolshevik ground troops. The effect of the 3D in wide shots is marvelous, but fighting in closer quarters is sometimes too tightly framed and rapidly edited for the stereoscopic imagery to register properly.

The film keeps combat-related drama boiling, with Jan captured by Dherzinsky (Krzesimir Debski), a hissable Russian state security officer. Matters on the home front remain lively with sleazy old officer Kostrzewa (Jerzy Bonczak) attempting to lure, then force, Ola into his bed. Though a smidge of melodramatic excess creeps into the central question of whether Ola and Jan will ever see each other again, “1920: Battle of Warsaw” is so pacey and absorbing that most auds will be ultimately moved by the result.

Local singing star and TV host Urbanska is fine in her first major role, and clicks nicely with Szyc’s Everyman hero. Meticulous production design and several museums’ worth of period military hardware complement Idziak’s lush visuals of Warsaw and gritty battlefield compositions. Other tech work is pro.

1920: Battle of Warsaw


Production: A Forum Films release of a Bank Zachodni, Polish Film Institute, HBO, Zodiak Jerzy Hoffman Film Prod. presentation of a Zodiak Jerzy Hoffman Film Prod. production. (International sales: Zodiak Jerzy Hoffman Film Prod., Warsaw.) Produced by Jerzy R. Michaluk, Mariusz Gazda. Directed by Jerzy Hoffman. Screenplay, Jaroslaw Sokol, Hoffman.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, HD, 3D), Slawomir Idziak; editor, Marcin Kot Bastkowski; music, Krzesimir Debski; production designer, Andrzej Halinski; costume designers, Andrzej Szenajch, Magdalena Teslawska, Wanda Kowalska, Tomasz W. Biernawski; sound (Dolby Digital), Waclaw Pilkowski; visual effects supervisors, Marek Galazka, Likasz Grzelak, Pawel Grzelak, Bartolomiej Stepniak; choreographer, Janusz Jozefowicz; stunt coordinators, Zbigniew Modej, Janusz Sieniawski & Sons; line producer, Pawel Barenski; assistant directors, Paulina Barenska, Andrzej Bednarski, Krzysztof Lukaszewiczi; second unit director, Lukasz Kosmicki; second unit camera, Kosmicki; casting, Magdalena Szwarcbart. Reviewed at Busan Film Festival (World Cinema), Oct. 8, 2011. (Also in Cannes Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 116 MIN.

With: With: Natasza Urbanska, Borys Szyc, Daniel Olbrychski, Krzesimir Debski, Jerzy Bonczak, Adam Ferency, Wiktor Balabanow, Igor Guzin, Boguslaw Linda, Ewa Wisniewska, Aleksander Domogarov, Olga Kabo. (Polish, Russian dialogue)

More Film

  • A Bump Along the Way Movie

    'A Bump Along the Way': Film Review

    While “Derry Girls” continues to be the last word in young, raucous female rebellion on the Emerald Isle, “A Bump Along the Way” has a little something to add. Sin the same Northern Irish city as the hit Netflix sitcom, but shedding the ’90s nostalgia for the Snapchat age, Shelly Love’s appealing, unassuming debut feature [...]

  • Tresor Plots $72 Million 'Asterix &

    Tresor Films Plots $72 Million 'Asterix & Obelix: The Silk Road,' New Projects (EXCLUSIVE)

    After delivering two of the highest-grossing French films of last year, Alain Attal’s Paris-based production company Tresor Films (“Sink or Swim,” “Little White Lies 2”) is kicking off 2020 with its most ambitious project yet, Guillaume Canet’s “Asterix & Obelix: The Silk Road.” Co-produced and financed by Jerome Seydoux’s Pathé, “Asterix & Obelix” is budgeted [...]

  • Anais Bertrand on Producing Sundance Player

    Anais Bertrand on the Obstacles She Faced to Produce Sundance Player ‘Jumbo’

    Zoé Wittock’s debut feature, “Jumbo,” screening in Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition, is also the first feature film produced by up-and-coming French producer Anais Bertrand, of Insolence Productions, who has cut her teeth on award-winning shorts, including winning the Procirep Short Film Producer Award last year. “Jumbo” is about a young woman, played by Noémie [...]

  • 'Parasite,' 'Jojo Rabbit' Win ACE Eddie

    'Parasite,' 'Jojo Rabbit' Win ACE Eddie Awards for Top Feature Films

    “Parasite” and “Jojo Rabbit” have won the top feature film trophies at the 70th Annual ACE Eddie Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Jinmo Yang won the dramatic feature category for “Parasite” over “Ford v Ferrari,” “Joker,” “The Irishman,” and “Marriage Story.” The victory marks the first time in ACE Eddie Awards history that a [...]

  • Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant,

    Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant, Dies at 73

    Gregg Smith, a dancer, casting director and assistant choreographer who had a long association with director Kenny Ortega, has died. He was 73. Smith died on Jan. 1. The industry veteran worked as a performer in the national touring company of the musical “Hair” and in a Los Angeles production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He [...]

  • Oscar Isaac Golden Globes 2016

    Film News Roundup: Oscar Isaac Joins Superhero Movie 'The Great Machine'

    In today’s film news roundup, Oscar Isaac boards “The Great Machine,” Keira Knightley joins “Silent Night” and “The Dog Doc” finds a home. CASTINGS Legendary has closed a deal for Oscar Isaac to star in and produce superhero saga “The Great Machine.” The project is based on Brian K. Vaughan’s comic book series “Ex Machina” [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    U.S. Movie Admissions Plunge 4.6% in 2019 Amid Box Office Decline

    U.S. movie admissions slid 4.6% last year to 1.24 billion, the second lowest admissions number during the current century, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has reported. North American box office for the year declined 4.1% to $11.4 billion, NATO said Friday. That figure was in line with the estimate released at the end [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content