In 1939, right on the brink of events that would serve as game changers in World War II, two members of the resistance, Josef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan), parachute to the border of Prague. Their mission is to assassinate one of Hitler’s most senior officers, Reynald Heydrich, who was so brutal that he became known as “The Butcher of Prague” and was responsible for introducing the solution for how Europe could eradicate the Jews.
Undercover and under top secrecy, Josef and Jan take up residence in Prague and, in trying to look less conspicuous, pretend they’re in relationships with the hopeful Marie (Charlotte Le Bon) and her more realistic friend, Lenka (Anna Geislerová). Both are aware that the men have something planned and are working with the resistance and they volunteer to help. The number of people in on the actual secret starts off with a few before growing to include more players and there’s a heightened sense of life and death all around. But, the question remains: Can Josef and Jan succeed in their high-stakes mission without being caught?
Director and co-writer Sean Ellis really steps things up in terms of suspense and edge of-your-seat moments. Things are intense from the moment Josef and Jan step foot on Prague soil until the very end where they’re forced to defend themselves in a full on shootout. “Anthropoid,” named after the mission, doesn’t just build up to the assassination, but documents the aftermath, which most films gloss over by giving the summary of what happened after or forget it completely. In this case, the aftermath serves the purpose of painting a clear picture of what is at stake for all the courageous people involved and what they risked in their war efforts.
Where the film’s plot revolves around the characters either taking action or waiting for the other shoe to drop, the movie still makes some time for its lead characters. Not everyone is fully realized, but the effects of their interactions fuels the sympathy asked from the audience. Certainly one of the most underrated characters in the film is that of Lenka. Anna Geislerová embodies her with such strength of character. A woman who knows the stakes and who holds Josef and Jan accountable for not being entirely truthful to her and Marie, she is a torrential wave in the middle of a chaotic storm.
The film’s final scenes go on for too long and there could have been a better send off to one of the characters, but with so many World War II films primarily concerned with Hitler, a lot of other people are often forgotten in the noise of war. There’s another particular scene where Jamie Dornan–who, away from his “50 Shades of Grey,” character does fairly well–has a panic attack over their mission and killing up close. Cillian Murphy calms him and talks him down from hyperventilation. It’s just another outstanding scene that humanizes these characters and makes sure to make them real and not just overly cocky, gun-wielding men. “Anthropoid” is a solid and generally effective thriller that turns the focus toward a resistance movement for the presumably forsaken Czechoslovakia in the middle of a mission that altered the war.
"Anthropoid" is a solid and generally effective thriller that turns the focus toward a resistance movement for the presumably forsaken Czechoslovakia in the middle of a mission that altered the war.