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Jerzy Bielenia, Adriana Andreeva, Witold Debicki
Directed by Zbigniew Kuzminski
Written by Aleksander Scibor-Rylski
Poland 1972
Polish with English subtitles
Facets Multi-Media 2006
94 Minutes

Agent #1 is the exception to the rule there are not many war movies about the Polish resistance or spies. This is an interesting, well-acted, though flawed thriller that will intrigue but also puzzle a North American audience. I am sure Agent # 1 is a much better movie if you understand Polish or know more about cinema from Poland than I do.

Agent #1 is the true story of Jerzy Iwanow, played by Jerzy Bielenia, a world-champion swimmer who is half-Russian, half-Polish, and was raised by a Greek stepfather. At the beginning of the war he finds himself applying to fight with the Polish resistance army in Africa, is refused because of his colored background, and recruited as a secret agent by the British. He is sent back to Greece, contacts a bunch of people involved in the resistance, and then goes to work.

There is not much in terms of story in Agent # 1. If you are looking for character development and so on, it is not there (although perhaps it is there in Polish -more on that later). This is basically an action movie where agent number one goes around blowing stuff up, almost getting caught a few times, escaping, and blowing more stuff up. This is not an American, Bruce Willis style action movie; there is a real and serious story being told here, but it is in some ways in that vein. The special effects are quite decent for something done in 1972 with at least one scene where you know a lot of the budget went up in flames.

There is some kind of romance with one of the resistance fighters hinted at but I was not perspicacious enough to figure it out. There is also something about a young girl who seems to have a crush on Jerzy Iwanow but I also did not quite get that.

The weakness of Agent # 1 is in the subtitles. True, the print used for this DVD does have a few glitches, there are a few lighting continuity issues (unless that too can be attributed to the print quality), but the irritating thing is the English subtitles. First of all there are typos every two or three minutes, which does get distracting after a while, there area few bad translations here and there, but most of all, the characters definitely say much more than what the English text suggests. This is very unusual from Facets Multi-Media, an outfit that specializes in foreign movies of all kinds and whose past releases I have reviewed were superior in terms of print quality and subtitling.

If you or someone you know is a fan of foreign movies Agent Number One is like a good second rental. If you are Polish, well, this is a rare opportunity to get a very interesting movie about an aspect of Poland during World War 2