This film is not for the faint-hearted.
Anthropoid directed by Sean Ellis stars Cillian Murphy as Josef Gabcík, and Jamie Dornan as Jan Kubis, two Czech soldiers who parachute into Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia with orders to assassinate SS General Reinbard Heydrich, third in command after Hitler and Himmler in the Nazi hierarchy.
What strikes you first are how ordinary the two men are who have been sent on this mission that will inevitably alter the face of WW2. Murphy and Dornan command the screen with ease, which is in turn helped by the emphasis created by Ellis on the humanity of these men, who are complete with mistakes, fear and most importantly a conscious.
The film does not shy away from portraying the horrors of war, even if the Western front does not actually appear. The Nazi soldiers are shown to be ruthless, bringing violence on the streets, but the horror is also seen with the lack of consideration by the absent ‘governments’ concerning the aftermath of such an attack on the Nazi party. This is embodied within Marie, played by Charlotte Le Bon, a young Czech woman who at first sees the war as romantic but is disturbed to learn the truth about the Anthropoid mission the two men must carry out. She instantly worries for her family and other Czech inhabitants who regardless of the outcome of the potential assassination (sorry guys, I won’t be telling you the outcome, google it or watch the film) will be the true victims. The example of human lives being so easily sacrificed as pawns in the bigger game of war seen in the film is something which is rings too true for a contemporary audience.
I do believe a round of applause is in need for Ellis’ craft at creating tension throughout the film, especially the end. Anyone who has already watched the film will (hopefully) understand where I am coming from, because it is brilliantly terrific piece of film-making. I will not say anymore as not to ruin it, and hopefully I have not hyped it up too much – if that is possible? This was one scene of many where I had my heart in my mouth and on the edge of my seat – I just remember thinking, I really need to watch a happy film, like Bridget Jones after this – which is exactly the sort of emotion that Ellis should be capturing in a film detailing a part of lesser known history during a war that shocked the world.
The friendship shared between the two characters is what propels the film forward, which is to the credit of Murphy and Dornan who portray a bond these two men share as they continuously shrink in the face of their mission. Murphy, in particular perfectly captures a man who attempts to justify his mission to Marie when she criticises him for planning to murder a man, to which his character coldly yet confidently declares it is assassination, as the word murder implies the man has a life worth living – which in my opinion was one of the best lines delivered in the film, hats off to Murphy.
Stripping back everything from costume to music, creates in essence quite a bleak looking film, which works to Ellis’ benefit as the audience has nothing else to concentrate on except for the Anthropoid mission tasked to the two men. My only criticism does not lie with the film, but with its lack of showings in major cinemas across the country.
Like I said above, Anthropoid is available at selected cinemas, only at selected screen times and for a limited time.