Anthropoid Review

Anthropoid (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin


Director: Sean Ellis
Writers: Sean Ellis, Anthony Frewin
Stars: Jamie Dornan, Cillian Murphy, Brian Caspe

I have been of late watching and reviewing movies of late that stay with you and effect you in a way that really reminds of humanity and consequence of others actions and how no matter how large or small have an impact on the way history pans out. Anthropoid is no different. The movie is based on the extraordinary true story of Operation Anthropoid, the World War II mission to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich, who was the main architect behind the Final Solution and the Reich’s third in command after Hitler and Himmler.

In London, the Czechoslovak government-in-exile resolved to kill Heydrich. Jan Kubiš (Jamie Dornan) and Jozef Gabčík (Cillian Murphy) headed the team chosen for the operation. Trained by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), the pair returned to the Protectorate, parachuting from a Handley Page Halifax.

The movie really hits home in the very first few minutes the desperation and determination of both these men and what actions they must take no matter how brutal to carry out their operation. Dornan and Murphy are perfectly cast and show a real bond from the moment they have to take out any Nazi informers.

What I was pleased to see was the actual operation wasn’t the movies climatic end. In fact Operation Anthropoid only happens an hour into the film. The build up and planning of the operation is more on an emotional level that shows concern on the consequence is Czechoslovakia succeed in taking out Heydrich. There are debates at great lengths on whether or not this is what is best for the country and you can understand both sides of the argument.

The Operation itself is very detailed and is as accurate as the history books describe. Although initially not a successful operation the consequences of their actions results in curfewing the streets until the culprits are captured and unfortunately as a result of Heydrich dying from his injuries the backlash is shocking. The village of Lidice destroyed with all the males 16 years old and older shot, children gassed to death and women sent to camps. Another Czech village, Ležáky, is also destroyed and its inhabitants are murdered because a radio transmitter is found there. Ultimately, a total of 15,000 Czechs were killed in the aftermath of the “Heydrich Terror”.

It is very easy to be shocked and appalled at the retaliation of these events but as the story states, there is only one guilty party in all of this and it isn’t the actions of the Czechoslovakian people. Personally I enjoyed the last hour of the film and no matter how many films I have watched on World War II, there is always a scene that will disturb or shock me as I always think I have seen and heard most of the horror during these times. The scene interrogating the Mother, Father and the Son for information is tragic, sad and really affected me. It reminded me how human behaviour can be cruel and evil if the mindset of so many are of the same, in this case the Nazis.

This movie was never going to have a riding off into the sunset feel to it or any “Tally Ho’s” thrown in for good measure. Anthropoid is a story of an operation that had a terrible backlash by the Nazis but looking back to it now played such an important part in our history books and really makes you think, what if this didn’t take place?

Director Sean Ellis captures the events well and finds a nice balance of important dialogue and build up to the second half of the movie where the action takes place. I say action but it isn’t stylistic or fancy. It’s realistic, gritty and suspenseful. Ellis really manages to take the audience down a really dark hole and basically leaves us there.

To Summarise I really did go into this movie on the belief that I would enjoy it. I was pleased Murphy and Dornan were the leads and although spoke English throughout the movie (which is something of a bugbear of mines usually) really nailed the characters and were convincing in their roles as two level headed and calculated men. I would recommend this movie to anyone who has an interest in this part of our history.

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