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Anthropoid - DVD Review

Anthropoid

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

OPERATION Anthropoid was one of the most significant events of the Second World War, yet it remains largely unknown to people outside the country in which it took place.

Sean Ellis’s film therefore stands as a fitting reminder and tribute to those events, as well as a gripping – if sobering – piece of work in its own right.

The operation in question concerned the assassination of leading Nazi Reinhard Heydrich in Prague in 1942 by London-trained commandos of the exiled Czech government, who were parachuted in for the job.

It was Heydrich who supervised the Einsatzgruppen, the Nazi death squads that killed more than two million people, and who chaired the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, where plans for the Final Solution were formalised. In Czechoslovakia, where he was the district governor, he was known as The Butcher of Prague.

Moves to assassinate him were first put into play on December 28, 1941, when two soldiers, Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis, were parachuted into Czechoslovakia. They subsequently spent months planning the job, only to be moved into action at short notice before Heydrich could leave the country to meet with Hitler.

Ellis’ film opts for a slow-build approach to the assassination, thereby creating an atmosphere of fear and suspicion as Gabcik and Kubis go about their day-to-day unsure of who to trust. The two men are played expertly by Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan (occasionally dodgy accents aside); the former a clinical, fiercely committed patriot who is not afraid of the wider sacrifices that may be involved in completing the job successfully.

Dornan, on the other hand, channels the uncertainty and anxiety of his Kubis well, offering a more everyman interpretation that further allows for the possibility of romance with one of the Czech women brave enough to offer support.

There’s notable support, too, from the likes of Toby Jones, as another member of the Czech resistance, Anna Geislerova and Bill Milner, as Czechs caught in the crossfire.

The film changes pace completely, however, once the assassination is carried out and the German reprisals begin. It’s here that Ellis really succeeds in making his film so memorable.

The action is expertly choreographed and grittily realistic, whether during the frenetic assassination itself, or during a church siege late on in which Gabcik, Kubis and fellow members of the resistance make a last stand against insurmountable German odds. Ellis ensures the action grips without losing sight of the emotions involved, or the human cost at play.

Indeed, a footnote that uncovers the full extent of the German reprisals provides a sobering final note that may well leave you sitting in stunned silence.

Anthropoid is not an easy film to watch. But it is a sobering and intelligent examination of war at its most desperate and despicable, realistically told. And it serves as a potent and timely reminder of an important chapter in European history that really ought not to have become so overlooked.

Ellis, as both co-writer and director, deserves maximum praise for that, while his film deserves to reach as many people as possible.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: January 16, 2017