Alright, so a little backstory on myself. You ready for this, it’s quite a shocker. *ehem* I’m not the most educated fellow. In high school, history was one of my weakest subjects, so there’s a ton of stuff that totally went over my head. So this historic moment, “Operation Anthropoid,” who it involved, what it was about, I hadn’t the foggiest idea. I had no idea that the genocide of all the Jews during World War II had a special name, “Final Solution.” I just assume genocide is genocide, it’s evil, it’s unnecessary, never crossed my mind that it had a specific name. I had no idea who was on the ladder of power in Nazi Germany. I knew Hitler was at the top, no duh, and if I took a minute to remember some history facts that an old buddy of mine loved to throw out, I’d have also remembered that Himmler was the next dude down, debatably worse than Hitler himself, and that’s as far as my knowledge went (sorry, high school, but… we were never meant to be). So whatever this movie was about, “the assassination of the third man down from Hitler,” didn’t know that was a thing.
But it is a thing, so let’s talk about my impressions of the cast. The two most recognized faces that I saw were Toby Jones and Cillian Murphy. I’ve been a relative fan of Jones since he first came into my movie-viewing life as far back as THE MIST (2007). Of course, younger tween audiences might recognize him from THE HUNGER GAMES (2012), and he was definitely a classy addition to CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. Cillian Murphy, also a superhero veteran, having appeared in all three Nolan-Batman films, INCEPTION, and a few other earlier hits like RED EYE (2005) and 28 DAYS LATER… (2002). A talented actor that deserves the big projects he seems to be getting and this looks like his first big leading role since RED EYE (that I’ve seen). The other recognized names would be Jamie Dornan and Charlotte Le Bon. You “classy” ladies out there will definitely know Dornan from 50 SHADES OF GREY, but I prefer to remember him from his humble-ish beginnings on the earlier seasons of the TV show ONCE UPON A TIME. I think he can be a good actor if given the right stuff, but that’s all I can say about him. And if you’ve seen such movies like THE WALK (2015) and or THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (2014), then you’ll also recognize Le Bon, whom is absolutely wonderful and probably one of my favorite additions to this film.
On to some of the crew. Sitting in the director’s chair, as well as the co-writer to the screenplay is Sean Ellis, who previously worked on a lot short films, but some of his feature-length films include films, such as CASHBACK (2006 – probably a good film) and THE BROKEN (2008 – probably a bad film), but seems to always be a writer of everything he directs. So kudos to this guy. His partner this round is Anthony Frewin. He’s not a writer of fiction per se, but he seems to have an extensive background of working fairly closely with Stanley Kubrick over the course of the late director’s career as his assistant, and did write the film, COLOR ME KUBRICK (2005). Interesting to see a name like that attached to this project.
Overall, I’m going in excited for the cast. The story looks like it could be interesting, and definitely looks like an exciting film, so I guess I’m pretty interested on the whole. But let’s see how it measures up. This is my honest opinion of ANTHROPOID.
Set in Prague, during 1942. General Reinhard Heydrich (Detlef Bothe), the third highest ranking officer in the Nazi Regime, is the most hated man in the city, responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands. Two men from Czechoslovakia, Jozef Gabčík (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubiš (Jamie Dornan) have been given orders to assassinate General Heydrich at all costs. Aided by two young women, Marie Kovárníková (Charlotte Le Bon) and Lenka Fafková (Anna Geislerová), as well as the last of the resistance, they map out a plan to best assassinate the very man responsible for The Final Solution.
I think this movie met my expectations, more or less. It’s good, so let’s get right into it.
Let’s start with the pros. Murphy is pretty solid as always, but if there’s anyone that steals the show, it’s Dornan. I fuckin’ knew it. Put the right material in his hands and he’s actually a decent actor. In fact, he’s probably the scene stealer. Jozef is definitely more stoic and absolute in their actions, whereas Jan is a lot more… I hesitate to say “timid,” but he’s clearly not used to being in the forefront of killing, despite any training he had. As a result, he’s prone to panic attacks, his hands start shaking, and Jozef has to calm him down. So it’s a very symbiotic relationship between the two men, but take one out of the equation and I feel like Jan would be the more sympathetic and interesting character, as Jozef doesn’t have a running series of moments like that, or any real personal challenges that he has to overcome.
Early on, I sort of raved about how talented an actress Le Bon was. While I do maintain that statement, this is probably her least memorable role. This is no fault of hers, of course, because she’s only given so much to work with. I couldn’t really tell you Marie’s personality other than be Jan’s romantic interest. However, if there is any character that steals the show when she’s on screen would definitely be Geislerová as Lenka. Ironically, despite being more serious a character than Maria, and just as serious as Jozef, Lenka is kind of a bad-ass. The difference between Lenka and Jozef in terms of their seriousness is that all Jozef does in the movie is demonstrate how loyal he is to the assassination. He has vague motivations that make it hard to identify with him, whereas Lenka, yeah, still has some vague motivations too, but she demonstrates that she’s not just some pretty face to help these men complete their mission. She’s a fighter herself, disassembling handguns, repulsed that the gun hasn’t been properly maintained, she’s a damn awesome character.
I give the story a lot of credit too, the scene where the assassination takes place is done extremely well. The built-up tension can be cut with a knife and there’s more than a couple “oh shit!” moments. Honestly, it’s during these action scenes where the movie shines the most, especially toward the end in the church, where waves upon waves of Nazi troops storm in and get mowed down by the resistance fighters, but despite their valiant and impressive efforts, you know there’s no hope for them. So the ending gets pretty emotional.
I think if I had any complaint, and it’s probably closer to a knitpick than a real problem with the movie, is that it has a habit of flirting with boredom. The first half of the movie is almost all build-up to the assassination itself. This obviously makes sense because the assassination takes planning. Those scenes are there, coming up with the best location to kill him and all that, but… no one in the room is making it sound interesting or urgent. When there’s no battle-planning the movie veers into the dual romances between Jan and Maria, and Jozef and Lenka. These are almost not very compelling if only because within each respective relationship only one person seems to be interesting.
At the end of the day, this was a pretty good movie, but unless you’re really into battle-planning and politics, then half this movie could be considered boring. I did fine for the most part, but it got pretty close. But if you enjoy the work of the cast, then I might recommend it just for the performances, as they are top-notch. The story is gripping and interesting, so I do say it’s worth checking out.
My honest opinion for ANTHROPOID: 4/5
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