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To Kill a Priest Reviews

Based on the 1984 murder of Solidarity supporter Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, TO KILL A PRIEST has all the marks of a huge hit. Not only was it directed by renowned Polish expatriate Agnieszka Holland (director of the Oscar-nominated ANGRY HARVEST, scripter of ANNA), it also features a fine cast that includes French heartthrob Christopher Lambert and the highly-respected Ed Harris (THE ABYSS), and it revolves around an explosive story of power and politics. Overflowing with emotional intensity, Holland's film is also laden with symbolism; yet the characters are so burdened with movie contrivances that, despite its noble motives, the film becomes laughable. The supporting performances are strong, the cinematography is crisp, and the set design effectively transforms French locations into the Warsaw of the early 1980s, but Holland, working in English, lacks the deftness and sincerity that helped her achieve success with her earlier pictures, and, unfortunately, she receives little help from the two leads. Opening in Warsaw on Christmas Eve, 1981, as martial law is instituted, the film follows militia captain Stefan (Harris), a devoted cog in the party machine, as he heads a death squad assigned to eliminate Father Alek (Lambert), a priest who has been vocal in his opposition to the government. Although he is revolted by the priest's activism, Stefan finds himself tormented by inner demons as he falls under the spell of the charismatic cleric.