In the early 1980s the Solidarity movement was at its strongest, forcefully creating an opposition to the communist government. While the international focus was placed on the workers, like Lech Wałęsa, who jumped over fences to punch straight at the crumbling system, it was actually the intelligentsia of Wrocław, who arguably were the operational brains behind the defiance. The local Solidarity movement was run by Władysław Frasyniuk (Filip Bobek), who helped organise an underground movement that help the union-based anti-communist force to survive delegalisation and persecution.
Flung back into 1980-1981 we see the final moments that led to Russian-influenced Warsaw government to enact martial law, that brought about catastrophic political tidal waves throughout the country. Already most of the society was too embattled with everyday life struggles, such as constant standing in line to buy a loaf of bread or some toilet paper (a centrally imposed tactic employed in order to distract people from the struggle). With the State of Emergency about to crack down on opposition movements, one of the dreariest periods in Polish communist was about to occur.
Within this backdrop writer-director Waldemar Krzystek delivers a political heist movie, which incorporates history with a truly enthralling action. The story itself centres around four key figures of the Wrocław Solidarity labour union, namely Frasyniuk, Józef Pinior (Krzysztof Czeczot), Piotr Bednarz (Maciej Makowski) and Stanisław Huskowski (Wojciech Solarz). With a very down-to-earth character presentation, which presents them as ordinary blokes, who per chance deem themselves obliged to stand up for the everyday citizen and initiate a systemic fight, each separately being a small cog in a societal behemoth (the union had 10 million members before delegalisation). When the local structures are informed by an enigmatic Tadeusz Markuć "Stary" (Mariusz Benoit) that any day now the powers that be will clamp down on the opposition and instate a state of national emergency, effectively cordoning off the country with the aid of Russian forces, the key question remains: how will Solidarity function in this quasi-war state? Necessity will force them into the underground, but in order to have money for paper, printing machines to forward the struggle and general operational funds - money will be a necessity. With Union funds, counting at about 80 million złotys, deposited in the state bank, the easiest option was to withdraw the money and store it away for safe-keeping. With the local secret services, led by the crass foul-mouth captain Sobczak (Piotr Głowacki), following there every move and such a withdrawal bound to cause a stir amongst the communist elite, this wasn't just an ordinary bank operation, but in essence was more of a heist.
Krzystek knowingly avoided spicing up the entire plot with more ludicrous concepts, instead sticking relatively close to the original caper, which was pretty simple in execution and may have never worked were it not for unforeseen allies of the highest order working for the benefit of a free, democratic Poland. This keeps the story face front, bringing credence and realism into proceedings. The grey Polish outdoors of a communist winter are juxtaposed with the light-hearted heroes, wider story of hope through perseverance and a competent, if at times unpolished, script. To the movie's credit we thankfully move away from the typical, and so irritatingly widespread, tendency to pompously eulogising the struggle, instead bearing the nitty-gritty. Coupled with some rewarding humour, mostly focused around the bumbling secret service officers Czerniak (Sonia Bohosiewicz) and Zubek (Adam Cywka), "80 Millions" is a rewarding low-intensity feature, that engages, but also functions as a superb period piece for those unacquainted with the reality of 1980s Communist Poland.
A separate word of acknowledgement to Piotr Głowacki who as Sobczak delivers a riveting performance as the villainous scrupulous agent, aided by what seems to be the best written character in the story.
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