Anthropoid: Review

Written and directed by Sean Ellis, WWII drama Anthropoid is a film that I wish I’d liked a lot more than I actually did. Set in 1941 Czechoslavakia, it tells the true story of a group of resistance fighters charged with the task of carrying out “Operation Anthropoid”, the assassination of  Hitler’s third-in-command and main architect of the Holocaust, Reinhard Heydrich.

It’s an extraordinary story, one which I wasn’t familiar with beforehand, and so it’s a shame that the way in which Ellis tells the story is, for the most part, decidedly ordinary. A film of very definitive two-halves, the first hour failed to completely engage me in the plot, resting largely on the shoulders of Cillian Murphy’s performance. 

An opportunity feels missed in the involvement of two female resistance fighters (played by the criminally underused Charlotte Le Bon and Anna Geislerová) one of which seems to just disappear from the narrative altogether, and there’s a considerable lack of tension in the build up to the planned assassination. 

It isn’t until after the attack takes place where Eliis seems to get into some kind of creative rhythm. As the two lead characters, Josef and Jan, go on the run from an enraged Nazi state, the narrative is afforded sequences of torture and fighting which make the film’s final hour as brutal as is it powerful. 

Ellis does just about enough in the final half to make Anthropoid worthwhile – by the finale, a gun battle in a church, I couldn’t help but be completely invested in the action and the characters – but it is an otherwise middle of the road war film which could have been something a lot more special in the right hands. 

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