Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours
MPAA Rating: R for Violence and some Disturbing Images
Directed by: Sean Ellis
Written by: Sean Ellis & Anthony Frewin
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Anna Geislerova, Harry Lloyd, Toby Jones, Charlotte Le Bon & Detlef Bothe
ANTHROPOID is a film that kind of snuck up out of nowhere for me. I wasn’t aware of this movie’s existence until last month, when I saw the trailer in front of THE INFILTRATOR. Though it may only be in select theaters at the moment, ANTHROPOID is worth seeking out. The film accurately depicts one of the less talked-about events from World War II. The movie is a grim, emotionally turbulent and depressing tale about unwavering courage and the bravery to do what is right…even when that’s the most difficult thing to do.
The year is 1941 and the place is Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Jozef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan) are two members of the resistance. Reinhard Heydrich (Detlef Bothe) is Hitler’s third-in-command, stands as the leader of Nazi forces in Czechoslovakia, and was the main mastermind behind “The Final Solution.” With the help of a handful of surviving resistance members, Gabcik and Kubis enact their mission: Operation Anthropoid. After months of planning and blending in, Gabcik and Kubis will attempt to assassinate Heydrich. Thousands of lives will be lost whether the mission fails or succeeds, so the resistance throws caution to the wind and tries to kill one of the most powerful Nazis in World War II.
ANTHROPOID can be split into two distinct sections, both of which combine for one powerful experience. The film’s first half is all about planning, build-up and the two main resistance members trying to blend into “normal” occupied Czech life. This section allows the characters to develop. We see their personalities, sympathize with their plights, and are utterly horrified by the conditions surrounding their once proud homeland. The first half also packs in plenty of nail-biting tension as resistance members try to evade very close calls.
The film’s second half is where all hell breaks loose. I won’t spoil whether or not the assassination succeeds (as I didn’t know the exact details walking into this film), but I will say that you see the attempt and the hellish aftermath. There’s lots of chaos, fiery action and borderline nightmarish imagery. ANTHROPOID is a very dark film and the powder keg explodes all throughout its second half, bringing plenty of desperation, emotionally harrowing scenes, and a finale that I won’t soon forget. Don’t expect to walk away from this movie with an upbeat attitude. It’s a grim viewing that left me feeling like I’d been punched in the gut.
Of course, none of the proceedings would do much without characters worth caring about. ANTHROPOID has that base covered too. The criminally underrated Cillian Murphy gets time to shine in the spotlight as Jozef Gabcik, a complex hero who’s tough as nails and delivers seriously heartbreaking moments as the film moves along. I haven’t seen much of Jamie Dornan (other than in the unintentionally hilarious FIFTY SHADES OF GREY), but he proves himself to be a more-than-capable performer as the young, headstrong Jan Kubis.
Charlotte Le Bon and Anna Geislerova play Marie and Lenka, two women who start off as aids and become bigger characters as the plot progresses. The mature relationship of Jozef and Lenka contrasted against the youthful ideas about the “romance” of war seen in Jan and Marie’s love makes for an interesting watch during the film’s slower points. The distinctly talented Toby Jones plays a resistance contact who becomes embroiled in the assassination. The believable dynamic between all of these main characters brings a greater emotional impact when all hell breaks loose.
ANTHROPOID was filmed in the actual locations where Operation Anthropoid took place, which lends a further sense of authenticity to the factual historical-thriller. Some details have been stretched for the film, but the facts are kept 95% intact, which is more than many other sensationalized “true story” war movies. I’m not going to lie and say that ANTHROPOID is a good time at the movies, because it’s not necessarily “entertaining” or “fun.” This movie is downright hard to take in places, but remains amazing all the same. Whether it be for a mostly authentic retelling of a lesser-known WWII tale or for a powerful war-time thriller, ANTHROPOID is more than worth a watch. This is one of 2016’s best films thus far!