Directed by Piotr Domalewski, and set in 1985, Operation Hyacinth (aka Hiacynt) is a Polish crime drama. The movie – which is new to Netflix from today – stars Tomasz Zietek, Hubert Milkowski, and Adrianna Chlebicka, and tells the story of a young police officer investigating a brutal murder amongst the gay community.
In the movie, Robert works for the Polish militia and has been assigned to a homicide case. The victim was a homosexual man who was stabbed multiple times in the chest, and Robert and his partner are tasked with locating the murderer.
With little information to go on, Robert goes undercover at a local gay cruising spot, where he befriends a student named Arek. Through Arek, Robert is able to infiltrate the gay community further, and by doing so he pieces together details about the crime. But the more time Robert spends with Arek, the more he begins to develop an attraction to him. This proves problematic for Robert as he wrestles with his feelings, whilst at the same time unravels a sinister conspiracy that could put Arek’s life in danger.
Steeped in warm sepia tones, chockful of moustaches, cigarette smoke, and turtlenecks, and featuring a dash of electronic music, there’s no mistaking Operation Hyacinth for anything other than an ‘80s-set movie. It looks the part, it sounds the part, and it feels the part too.
A great deal of effort has been made to ensure this period film provides a snapshot of the era, and it does its job admirably. And if like me, you can’t help but be attracted to anything from this decade, you will be sure to fall in love with the aesthetic of his movie as soon as you press ‘play’.
But those looking for a fun nostalgia trip, or something warm and fuzzy, should be aware that this is a harsh movie. Operation Hyacinth is a film which places its focus on police corruption, homophobia and injustice, and is grim, gritty, and covers some dark subject matter.
Operation Hyacinth is also a slow-moving tale, so it won’t necessarily be for everyone, but those who do find themselves drawn into the story will be rewarded with something of note. It ticks all the boxes for storytelling and drama, and offers a timely reminder of the hardships placed on the queer community in Poland.
Leading the movie is Tomasz Zietek, who puts in a great performance as the emotionally conflicted Robert. Zietek plays the role with heart and conviction, and ensures his character becomes the driving force of the film.
From the first few moments where Robert is called into the murder investigation, to latter scenes in which he becomes deeply entrenched in the case, Robert is fascinating to watch. His journey is one of growth and integrity, and by the closing credits I found myself wondering what his next move would be. His relationship with Arek is also something of substance. Their moments together on screen are often brief, but these scenes are important for showing the change that takes place in Peter.
Outside of the Robert/Arek storyline, there is a crime narrative which comes with all the usual story beats one might expect, including important revelations, a spot of corruption, and various scenes set in and around a police HQ. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but it’s all good stuff and everything feels very real and involving.
Is Operation Hyacinth the most outstanding movie you’ll watch in 2021? No, but if you enjoy crime dramas, then it should meet expectations and there is certainly a lot to like here.
If you’re after something bright and breezy, Operation Hyacinth isn’t it. It is not a slice of easy viewing froth, perfect for a Saturday night with a curry and a few beers, and it won’t take you places you’ve not been to before.
But if you want grit and drama, with some substance, then this might be for you. It does move slowly, so bear this in mind, but if you are looking for something to invest your time in then be sure to take a look.