Best known for his adaptation of The Tin Drum, Volker Schlndorff reunites with one of the stars of that 1979 film, Katharina Thalbach, for this based-on-a-true-story drama about one of the unsung heroes of Poland’s Solidarity movement. When the film opens in 1961, Agnieszka (Thalbach) is a nearly illiterate Gdansk shipyard worker and single mother who’s been repeatedly rewarded for her labor despite occasional friction with the bosses. Early scenes effectively capture the earth-toned drabness that was a signal feature of Eastern European communism, as well as the dearth of private space. The latter turns out to have its advantages: Searching for the source of loud music, Agnieszka meets the trombone player who will become her husband.
Spanning the period from the construction of the Berlin Wall to the election of Pope John Paul II in less than two hours, Strike feels like a compressed epic. The middle section is particularly rushed, piling on a series of major incidents—a cancer diagnosis, a wedding, a sudden death—too rapidly for any real emotional impact. But the movie picks up in the final act as Agnieszka’s political activities begin to eclipse her personal drama, culminating in the historic 1980 strike that would lead to the creation of free labor unions in Poland. (Opens Fri; Lincoln Plaza.)—Joshua Land