If I were to make a list of ‘top ten good movies with bad titles’, I think I’d have to include Anthropoid. It sounds as though it belongs to a really shoddy alien movie on SyFy Channel. But get past the off-putting title and you’ll find a genuinely thrilling tale of war and resistance.
For those who don’t know, “Operation Anthropoid” was the code-name given on the Czech soldiers’ mission to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking German Nazi, in 1941. Nicknamed the Butcher of Prague, he had to be taken out. Anthropoid depicts the lead-up to and the aftermath of Heydrich’s assassination. Two agents – Josef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan) are at the centre.
To date, I’m yet to see a war film that I haven’t liked. These films recreate some of the most significant moments in history, and they always bring an interesting perspective to military conflict. Anthropoid is no different, but I must point out that it only gets really good around the halfway mark.
The first hour is VERY slow, as the characters and relationships are developed. There’s a lot of talking and gathering around tables to discuss the extreme risk of their mission. It’s a bit formulaic, but I suppose necessary for making the viewer care about these people. Basically, the first part of the film is about getting to know the characters and seeing how they operate undercover, but it doesn’t make for particularly compelling drama.
Thankfully, the last hour or so is a tense nail-biter. The film turns into a cagey thriller where there’s a constant sense of danger. As the action heats up and the Nazis start wrecking havoc, you are really invested emotionally. With Josef leading the mission opposite Jan, you hope to God nothing bad happens to them. They’re likeable, determined and courageous in the face of overwhelming adversity. Neither of them are cardboard heroes. They feel like real human beings and they’re emotions show along the way.
I thought the acting was really good in this film. Cillian Murphy once again shows what a versatile and interesting actor he is. He just seems to be able to play any part, whether it’s a hero, villain or something in-between. I don’t understand why he’s still not yet a truly big name in Hollywood. I put him in the same league as great actors like Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy. But for some reason, for many people, Murphy is still that actor whose face you know, but not the name. He seriously deserves more recognition.
Anthropoid tells one hell of a story and I found it to be very engaging. It’s shocking when you think about how it’s all based on actual events, because there are some really disturbing scenes. I can’t claim to know how accurate the film is, but it’s convincing in all parts.
It also shows that you can still make a big film on a tighter budget. As an indie production, Anthropoid is a stripped-down, modest fare. It doesn’t have the same wow factor as a war movie like Hacksaw Ridge (2017), which had the advantage of a 40 million budget. But Anthropoid still amps up the stakes, action and suspense, making for a climax that leaves a tear in your eye.
After a slow start, this is a truly gripping and intense tale. It’s not exactly a “fun” movie, but I did really like it. The film brings you close to the characters, as they fight for survival. Don’t think I’ll see it again, but it’s a solid one-time watch. So, be sure to check it out!
Director: Sean Ellis
Writers: Sean Ellis, Anthony Frewin
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Brian Caspe, Toby James, Hana Frejkova
Distributors: Bleecker Street (US), Icon Film Distribution (UK)
Run Time: 120 minutes
Have you seen Anthropoid? What’s the best war film you’ve ever seen? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.