Operation Hyacinth (2021) Netflix Review

Director: Piotr Domalewski

Writer: Marcin Ciaston

Stars: Tomasz Zietek, Hubert Milkowski, Marek Kalita

RATING: 3 Stars

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Not satisfied with the handling of a murder investigation in the Warsaw gay community, a young police officer sets out to uncover the truth of what happened himself. The events of his investigation will change both his professional and his personal life.

From the synopsis both on IMDB and on Netflix, I was expecting a much more run of the mill, renegade cop story. And while this film does still kind of stick to that classic rogue cop with an obsession with a case, formula, there is for sure a deeper and darker story running parallel to what you would expect. It’s made all the darker once you read up on the actual events of the real Operation Hyacinth and realise that events like this really happened. Poland registered over 11,000 citizens as homosexual, and they were treated appallingly.

Tomasz Zietek gives an amazing lead performances here. Able to pull off both the maverick cop angle, and the emotional, mixed up young man that his character becomes about half way through. His story, and the development of his character are highly compelling, and even though it telegraphs it’s twists and turns way in advance, so nothing that happens is really going to be a shock, it is still a highly engrossing story fro beginning to end. If you have seen one maverick cop story, you know how this one is going to play out, but you stick with it for the characters, not really for the story.

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I do thing that at just shy of two hours the film feels kind of long. It took a long, long time to get going, and in the beginning that plot threads are kind of hard to follow. It could have cut down on the set up and take about 20 minutes of the runtime, and still been just as good of a story. And as much as I enjoyed Robert’s character development, I can’t help but feel like it would have made a bigger statement if he was defending the rights of the gay community out of a need to stand up for human rights, rather than because he himself figures out he is gay. But with the lack of gay stories being shown in mainstream cinema, it is great that we get multiple gay main characters here, and his own sexual awakening does make the film feel more personal and high stakes.

Movies set during this Soviet era are always so fascinating to me. To see how things were done there back then. It’s grim and the way they treated people was absolutely atrocious, but they got away with it for so long. It’s a kind of morbid fascination. But they all tend to be the same kind of espionage type, uncovering state secrets, kind of thing, so this was a welcome change of pace for this kind of film. It has a lot to say about the oppression of homosexuality and the way the secret police operated during the soviet era, how they routed out what they considered ‘other-ness.’

Not at all what I was expecting, and I was pleasantly surprised by how great the performances were, so if you were undecided about this one, I would recommend giving it a shot.

‘Operation Hyacinth’ is streaming now on Netflix

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