Sean Ellis’ Anthropoid is based on the sensational true story of Operation Anthropoid, the World War II operation to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich. He was The Reich’s third in command after Adolf Hitler and Himmler. Heydrich was the mastermind behind the Final Solution, but he was also the leader of the resident Nazi forces in Czechoslovakia whose reign of tyranny forced self-exiled Czech and Slovak soldiers to conduct a confidential mission to assassinates Hitler’s number three. When it comes to resistance efforts against the Nazis, the French are who people remember. But it was the resistance in Prague that received the best result.
Heydrich was the district governor. I say governor, it’s more along the lines of local dictator. Moreover, he was a high-ranking SS officer and the brains behind the infamous Holocaust. They didn’t call him The Butcher Of Prague for nothing. The German retaliation was outright brutal, harrowing and horrifying. Anthropoid shows all of this without pulling any punches. Entire villages were razed to the ground and thousands of innocents were killed in the streets where they stood. They were the guinea pigs for Nazi genocidal ruthlessness. One of their guys gets killed, so they are take thousands just to prove a point. This period Second World War thriller from Sean Ellis is a retelling of Operation Anthropoid, and it’s truly an edge of your seat drama. Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) brings an essence of Thomas Shelby to the brooding Josef Gabčík while Jamie Dornan does well in the more human Jan Kubiš.
Jan Kubiš (Jamie Dornan) and Joseph Gabčík (Cillian Murphy) are two of seven rebel fighters who parachute into Czechoslovakia on instructions from London. They arrive in Prague to find that their confidant has been murdered, and what’s left of the resistance can fit into one room. This includes Uncle Hajský (Toby Jones) and Adolf Opálka (Harry Lloyd). Most of the remaining men are against Operation Anthropoid as it is the equivalent of suicide mission, even if they succeed. They debated about the aftermath and how dire it would be for the public. They weren’t wrong.“Why don’t you just kill Hitler…he’s just a few hundred kilometres down the road in a little village called Berlin!” one man says sarcastically.
Anthropoid had done well with its protagonists, through casting Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders) and Jamie Dornan (Once Upon A Time) as the patriotic expats, devoted to their cause and their country. The story is full of suspense intrigue and excitement, being wonderfully directed/co-written by Sean Ellis amidst good camerawork and delightful 1940s costume/hair design. The talented cast recall this operation with their thick Slovak accents, as the story cogs along, with our heroes meshing themselves in the resistance where every move has the potential to get you killed. People are afraid, and are against the plan from outset. The Nazi Regime has proven itself ruthless countless times, as Ellis demonstrates in cut throat torture scenes, with children. Many scenes in the third act will make audiences want to leave due to their harsh nature.
This movie has the perfect blend of seriousness, suspense and comedy with the odd joke thrown in at these bleak times. The characters are just normal people who had had enough of the Nazi tyranny. Gandhi said “an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” This quote holds up when one of their party says something along the lines of, how many people will have to die until enough is enough? Added to this, are the bloody torture scenes and the epic gun battle in the cathedral. Anthropoid is an edge-of-your-seat period wartime thriller with some of the best set pieces of the year, excellent performances and a soul-destroying musical score. This is Operation Anthropoid.