“We’re here to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich,” says Josef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy) to the leaders of the Czech Resistance in the World War II thriller, Anthropoid. It’s 1943 and in Prague two Czech soldiers, Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan) and Josef Gabcik, parachute back into the country on a top secret mission. After almost getting caught and turned in to the Nazis, the two soldiers finally make contact with the Czech Resistance and seek assistance in carrying out their mission – ‘Operation Anthropoid’ – which is to assassinate the third in command of the Nazi Reich, SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the man who came up with the idea of “The Final Solution”.
Along with fake workman papers and IDs, Gabcik and Kubis’ cover involves socializing with local ladies Marie Kovárníková (Charlotte Le Bon) and Lenka Fafková (Anna Geislerová) who are part of the Resistance and who they eventually begin to have real feelings for. With their cover set, the two undercover soldiers and the Czech Resistance work to figure out the best way to accomplish their mission. After finding solutions to overcoming all the obstacles and security issues, the small band of assassins come up with a plan that just might work – even though it’s likely to cost them their lives.
Based on actual historical events, Anthropoid is a suspenseful and engaging war thriller with strong performances and sound direction by Sean Ellis. Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders, the Dark Knight trilogy) gives an impressive, intense, and at times emotional performance as Gabcik, the Czech patriot determined to accomplish their mission whatever the cost. Murphy has great chemistry with both Jamie Dornan and Anna Geislerova.
Jamie Dornan (the Fifty Shades franchise, The Fall) is solid as Jan Kubis, the Czech soldier who at times doesn’t seem to have what it takes to accomplish the mission. It’s clear he’s terrified of being caught and killed. The bond and friendship he has with Murphy’s Gabcik is what helps him find his inner strength to keep going. It’s really Murphy and Dornan’s performances that elevate the film.
The pacing and direction of the film is tight and tense, with a slow build toward the assassination attempt on Heydrich and the subsequent manhunt for those involved by the Nazis. The production design, costumes, and look of the film bring to life World War II Prague wonderfully.
The only drawback to Anthropoid is the heavy-handed cloak and dagger feel in the first 30 to 40 minutes which is a bit over-the-top. Fortunately, the rough parts smooth out, the tone falls into a groove, and overall Anthropoid is a very compelling thriller.
Gripping and intense, Anthropoid is a powerful and effective thriller that tells an important and significant story from World War II that should not be missed.
MPAA Rating: R for violence and some disturbing images
Running Time: 120 minutes
Release Date: August 12, 2016