Moonlighting (1982)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Political Drama, Psychological Drama  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Mark Deming

When martial law was declared in Poland in 1981 in the wake of the Solidarity uprisings, Polish expatriate filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski wanted to make a film about the crisis. But since it was politically and financially impossible for him to shoot a film in Poland, he structured Moonlighting around a metaphoric story, in which four Polish workers are stranded in London as their nation seals itself off from the world. Skolimowski's screenplay and efficient, claustrophobic direction create a superb microcosm of the crisis, capturing the uncertainty, paranoia, struggle for power, and uncomfortable sway between good intentions and abusive realities. And he was fortunate enough to cast Jeremy Irons as Nowak, the de facto leader of the exiled Warsaw laborers (and the only one who speaks English). Irons effectively buries his British voice and manner to reflect a man out of his element, more pragmatic than intelligent, both confident of his actions and fearful of their consequences. Like Spike Lee's Get on the Bus and Louis Malle's May Fools, Moonlighting concerns itself with the ideals and actions around a major historical event, perhaps teaching us more than the milling crowds and military hardware of a literal recreation might have done.