Mission Not-So-Impossible for Poland, After All

The latest "Mission: Impossible" caused a huge stir in Poland before filming even started, thanks to plans to blow up a historic railway bridge. Now that the controversy has faded, there is still buzz - thanks to the visible role of Polish actor Marcin Dorociński.

Tom Cruise and Vanessa Kirby in "Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One", 2023
Tom Cruise and Vanessa Kirby in "Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One" (2023). Photo: Christian Black / Paramount Pictures / Avalon / Be&W

“Marcin Dorociński Was Not Cut Out of Mission: Impossible!” was the actual headline splashed across a popular Polish website, noting with satisfaction that the Polish actor is even seen in the opening sequence of “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One,” (opening internationally in mid-July 2023) much to the excitement of Warsaw audiences.

However, it was not love for Poland – or really Poland at all – on producers’ minds when casting Polish actors in the international production. And on that note, nor is it Dorociński’s first foray into international cinema.

Marcin Dorocinski at the Gdynia Film Festival, 2016
Marcin Dorocinski Photo: Wojciech Strozyk / REPORTER

Marcin Dorociński: the Soviet agent

Remember the guy? The tall, dark-haired energetic guy with the bright, mesmerizing eyes contrasting with his complexion, nearing fifty and standing at the gates of international cinema? Well, you may remember him from back when “The Queen’s Gambit” was THE series everyone was talking about. In Netflix’s show about a troubled chess master, Anna Taylor-Joy’s Beth Harmon had to face Vasily Borgov, the grim Soviet grandmaster. That was him: Marcin Dorociński.

Three years have passed, and Dorociński is back in international production – and, perhaps on a bitter note – again as a Russian. This time, in “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning,” he stars as the unnamed captain of the Sevastopol submarine.

For Poles, who celebrate their actor’s fame and success, it is a bittersweet moment of reckoning their heritage: after over 120 years of being part of the Russian Empire, on top of another almost fifty years of submission to Soviet communism, the country’s people have to come to terms with their role as the supplier of Soviet spies, soldiers, and villains for the Hollywood industry. The role is not the most comfortable for the nation, with strong resentment against its historical oppressor and current threat to peace in the region.

However, Dorociński, who has twice graced the screen portraying Soviets, is not the only one. Back in 2010, the Hollywood action blockbuster “Salt,” starring Angelina Jolie, was famous in Poland for including one of the country’s most celebrated actors, Daniel Olbrychski, as a Russian villain with a strikingly similar name to Dorociński’s chess master: Vasily Orlov. More recently, the AppleTV+ series “For All Mankind,” wonderfully set in an alternative version of the Cold War space race, features Polish Piotr Adamczyk as the Soviet counterpart of NASA’s daring official Margo Madison. Not to mention the fact that he joined the Marvel Universe as part of the infamous “Tracksuit Mafia” in the hit series “Hawkeye” – complete with his own action figure.

Pilchowice Bridge: (luckily) Impossible

There is still one Polish element that, hard as it is, needs to be mentioned when it comes to the latest issue of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise. Though Soviet-playing Polish actors are supposed to be the villains of the story, the true menace for Poles turned out to be the production’s location scouts. In mid-2020, Poles were electrified by the news that their country was considered the location for some movie sequences.

Aerial view of Pilchowicki bridge - old steel truss railway bridge over the Pilchowickie Lake in Lower Silesia, Poland.
Aerial view of Pilchowicki Bridge – an old steel truss railway bridge that runs over Pilchowickie Lake in Lower Silesia, Poland. Photo: bbsferrari / stock.adobe.com

Under most circumstances, this would be a great honor, but this time producers were reportedly requesting permission to demolish a rail bridge near the Lower Silesian town of Pilchowice. Now a famous feature of the Polish landscape, the 1905 rail bridge is one of the few objects of such value. A scandal broke out, and though the Deputy Minister for Culture defended the idea that “not all that is old is automatically a monument,” in the end, Pilchowice Bridge was spared, and the scene was filmed a year later on a mockup built in Derbyshire, England.

It looks like a win-win, after all. Poles get to add their new American(ized) Idol, Marcin Dorociński, to the fame of the Polish Film School. And the picturesque bridge still stands – in good condition and with renewed fame.

Poles, who can learn Russian easier and more convincingly than their English-speaking counterparts, may not be thrilled about how they get pigeonholed into certain roles, but it takes more than language and looks to be a part of a world-class production. And Poland is proud to supply its world-class actors.

Przemysław Bociąga

is a Polish journalist and essayist based in Warsaw. An anthropologist and art historian by education, he specializes in combining cultural phenomena with compelling narrative. He has authored and co-authored several books covering lifestyle and history. The most recent of them is “Impeccable. The biography of masculine image”. He has contributed to many leading magazines, both in print and online, and teaches cultural anthropology to college students.

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