Dan's Review: "Anthropoid" offers unique view of WWII
Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy in Anthropoid - © 2016 – Bleecker Street/Lucky Man Films
Anthropoid (Bleecker Street)
Rated R for violence and some disturbing images.
Starring Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Anna Geislerová, Harry Lloyd, Toby Jones, Charlotte Le Bon, Alena Mihulová, Bill Milner, Sam Keeley, Mish Boyko, Sean Mahon, Brian Caspe, Marcin Dorociński, Nicolai Borger, Detlef Bothe, Jirí Simek.
Written by Sean Ellis and Anthony Frewin.
Directed by Sean Ellis.
When it comes to tales of heroism in films, most audiences are given an Americanized view of things, especially when it comes to Word War II movies. For most U.S. audoences, Saving Private Ryan is the ultimate war WWII experience, complete with a sense of national pride for what our soldiers did in Europe and abroad. Since it was a “world” war, we often forget where the struggle took place, and the lives affected by the Nazi invasion, far removed from any Yankee influence. One such place was Czechoslovakia, a country rich in resources that was taken over by Hitler’s army and whose citizens suffered great atrocities. Anthropoid is the true story of a plot to assassinate one of Hitler’s right hand men in the summer of 1942 in Prague.
Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan star as Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, two Czech expatriates sent from exile in England to kill Reinhard Heydrich (Detlef Bothe), known as “The Butcher of Prague” for his heavy-handed tactics to keep the locals in order. Heydrich was known to have killed and tortured thousands of Czechs during the war, and was also known to be the architect of the “Final Solution” to exterminate Jews in Nazi concentration camps. Jozef and Jan parachute into the country and hide in Prague with the help of the Czech underground. Their plot takes several months to plan and execute, as they meet two Czech patriot women (Charlotte Le Bon and Anna Geislerová) who pose as their girlfriends (their ruse blossoms into actual romance as well). Their plan is to shoot Heydrich as he passes through the city in an open convertible car, since the evil general considers himself untouchable.
Their plan backfires (sort of) as Jozef’s gun jams, and Jan throws a grenade at the general’s car, which wounds him. The assassins flee into hiding, and Heydrich eventually dies from his wounds days later. As the Nazi manhunt for the killers grows more intense, a traitor gives up the location of Jozef and Jan’s hideout underneath an Orthodox church, where they stay with seven other conspirators awaiting a chance to escape. The Nazi soldiers surround the church, where a long battle takes place.
Anthropoid is a good, yet tedious film that gives a unique perspective of WWII history most Americans may not be familiar with. In that sense it’s educational and allows a new audience a rare glimpse of WWII. Murphy and Dornan are adequate leading men, with a great supporting cast that includes Toby Jones as a Czech resistance leader and Alena Mihulová as Mrs. Moravcová, another resistance member who harbors the spies in her home.
My only beef with Anthropoid is the gun battle in the church, in which Writer/Director Sean Ellis depicts the long siege with exhausting detail. The battle takes over what seems like the last 45 minutes of the movie, giving it an uncomfortable pace. Yes, the war was awful, and these Czech patriots deserve recognition, but their heroism could have been told without so much emphasis on the church battle. It’s a movie that devotes a lot to historical accuracy, but it could have been crafted a little tighter.
Speaking of expanding your historical knowledge, there are other WWII films worth a look that depict the struggles of people who don’t speak English. I’d recommend In Darkness, a 2011 film about a sewage worker who saved the lives of several Jews in Poland. It’s good to expand your view beyond American heroes.