Directed by Sean Ellis
Written by Sean Ellis and Anthony Frewin
Starring Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy
“But is it a crime to kill a Nazi?”
My significant other asked this after, having settled into my seat at the theater, I announced that I would be reviewing Anthropoid for this week, since it would take less time to watch it than finish the book I had planned on reviewing last week.
(Thank you for your patience; the back-to-college process is always a little stressful)
Anthropoid takes its name from the covert WWII operation on which it is based: the effort of two agents of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the third-in-command of the Nazi regime who came up with the “Final Solution” to the question of European Jewry. Sent to the capital of occupied Czechoslovakia to crush resistance, his brutal, mass shootings earned him the moniker “the Butcher of Prague.”
I have decided to write about Anthropoid because, in the eyes of the law of the time and place, it was a crime, and it shares many characteristics with true-crime works: plots and their unraveling, conspiracy, the nature of justice, and violence. Copious violence.
While some may make the argument that any killing of a human being, even a despicable one, is objectively wrong and unjustifiable , i.e. “a crime,” (and I will not debate this thorny issue here), I did not find the premise discomfiting, and neither will you. Not after you see what the covert agents are up against.
What did disturb me, and will disturb you, is the extreme, historically accurate violence of the Nazi occupiers against the people of Prague and resistance fighters. Such violence should be disturbing. The movie is difficult to watch, but it must be commended for re-sensitizing viewers to human suffering, suffering which other “action” films overlook or glory in.
The heaviness of the violence causes the second half of the movie to drag. The script, however, has brilliant moments of gallows humor and otherwise does not suffer pacing issues.
Character development and interactions are a bit rushed and sketchy, but this is not intended as a drama of character. I still sympathized with the protagonists.
Acting by leads Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy is solid. I was particularly impressed by the dignified performance of Lenka by Anna Geislerova.
The film’s recreation of wartime Prague was spectacular. I found myself wondering “Is that really Prague? If so, how did they put a period tram in the middle of a busy city street?”
So, go see Anthropoid. But, please, don’t bring any kids, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
4/5 stars: Not an epic, not an instant classic, but a moving tribute,
3/5 ‘fraidy cats: There is suspense, and moments of terror, but the blatant violence earns it an extra star.
5/5 ick-factor: Gruesome and medically accurate deaths of every description, in close-up.