It’s amazing to think about how World War II can still have real life stories we haven’t heard about. Sean Ellis and Anthony Frewin have written the story about how Czech and Slovak soldiers fight the Nazi occupation in Czechoslovakia.
It’s 1942, and there’s a mission to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich (Detlef Bothe). He’s the third highest ranked Nazi, and called the “Butcher of Prague.”
So, “Operation: Anthropoid”, which sounds like this is a sci-fi thriller, involves nine men parachuting in for the mission of assassinating Heydrich.
SPOILER ALERT: it became the highest ranking Nazi ever taken out during the war.
The movie focuses on Josef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan of 50 Shades of Grey). They were the ones that were going to jump in front of Heydrich’s motorcade and shoot him. What could go wrong with that, right?
While watching it, you can’t help but think of movies like Valkyrie or The Debt (one of my favorite movies of 2010). And certainly folks will find the first half of the movie slow. They meet women (Charlotte Le Bon and Anna Geislerova) and try to blend in. You get a lot of cliche scenes. One involves a Nazi that’s about to discover them in the backroom of a small cafe. Other scenes have Nazis looking at them suspiciously. We assume the guys will fall in love with their fake girlfriends, too.
Yet as many times as we’ve seen Nazis torturing people, or folks trying to make decisions they think will protect their families or villages, it’s just so gut wrenching and powerful to watch. So when we watch as a young man contemplates turning the crew in…we can understand his logic.
Many will think the movie takes too long to get to the final church shootout, but I thought it built the tension nicely. Perhaps 15 minutes could’ve been shaved off the first half, to move things along a bit more. The shootout in the third act goes on for quite some time, although I think that’s needed, to show how the real six hour stand-off went down. It’s very gripping.
There was a nightclub scene I loved in the first half, but a lot of the other scenes felt a bit stiff. And the shaky camera…was rather annoying. If people are standing in a kitchen talking, we don’t need to see the camera shaking all over. It’s not like they’re hiding in a bomb shelter during an attack, so stop shaking the camera. It’s an idiotic filming technique that directors need to quit doing.
There’s a scene where one character says, “Boredom may be the biggest enemy we have here.”
Unfortunately, a lot of audience members might feel the same way with a two hour film that really takes its time getting there. And with a title like “Anthropoid,” I’m sure this won’t do well at the box office.
I found this real life story entertaining enough, and it was a part of history I wasn’t familiar with.
3 stars out of 5.