“Based on the extraordinary true story of Operation Anthropoid, the WWII mission to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the main architect behind the Final Solution and the Reich’s third in command after Hitler and Himmler.”

Director: Sean Ellis
Writers: Sean Ellis, Anthony Frewin
Staring: Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Lenka Fafková
Release Date: September 9, 2016

Anthropoid (2016) starts out exactly how I’d like it. We have to soldiers parachuting into a dangerous situation. They meet a man they are meant to trust, but that trust is immediately broken. One of our newly landed individuals sniffs out this deception which leads to a tense standoff and an eruption of bullets. The second of our parachuting newcomers is thrust into the heat of a tense moment and can’t pull the trigger. Within 10 minutes we know the dynamic of the war time landscape and we know a little bit about each our main characters.

*chefs kiss*

Anthropoid is the true story of patriot Czech and Slovak men who have devised a plan to execute SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the Reich’s third in command. Heydrich is known as the author of the Final Solution and he stations himself in Czechoslovakia lording over the territories that the Nazis control. The two men we meet at the top of the movie are Josef Gabcík (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan), and they are the two architects who are going to put this assassination plan in motion.

The movie throws you into the tense espionage vibe and forces you to tread water. Once you find your footing, the mood begins to wash of the whole story and it becomes a rather simple story of David vs. Goliath. It is about a group of men, who are later joined by love interests and fellow spies Marie Kovárníková (Charlotte Le Bon) and Anna Geislerová (Lenka Fafková), and their quest to free their land by eliminating the head of their suffocating and domineering snake.

I am here to report here to report that Cillian Murphy is excellent as usual. The part of Gabcík is a quieter part that Kubis, playing a bit more reserved. His demeanor and calm towards the assassination attempt is like the eye of the storm, but even the center of resolve can still have shaky moments.

Spoilers for a movie that is based off of a true story, but the Czech’s attempt to murder Heydrich does not go as planned. As someone who did not know what events were about to transpire, this sequence of events left in my in shock. It is Gabcík who errs and sends the final act of the movie in motion. He builds the gun that is meant to kill Heydrich while calmly waiting on a park bench, and it is this gun that doesn’t work at the most crucial moment.

It is shattering moment because Anthropoid builds Gabcík as this indestructible ultra focused solider, but even the most determined can make mistakes at the most important times.

Kubis is a bit more of a empathetic soul, and he has shaky hands when it comes to killing. When he arrives in this foreign land, the first think he does is fall in love with Marie and marry. He is willing to feel, and that means that he cares for not only for the mission, but also those he cares about. This sense of duel sense of purpose plays itself out in the final act of the movie.

The final 30 minutes of Anthropoid is the reason to start the movie. There is almost no dialogue at all, yet there is a immense amount of tension and emotion. At this point in the story, the heroes are hiding from the Nazis in a church. Their status is put in jeopardy when a former ally of theirs betrays them. Within moments the Germans have the holy place surrounded. Some soldiers like Gabcík are in the basement unable to see what is happening outside. Others like Kubis see what is transpiring, and they take up positions.

It is a Alamo moment for the trapped. Hoards of Nazis are coming in through the church’s front doors. As the evil bastards are rushing in, Kubis and company are laying them down. They have the high ground, and they hold it for as long as they can. It is brutal. It is loud. It is chaotic. Gabcík is downstairs, unable to help. All he can do is listen to the barrage of bullets happening above him. Imagine this man, already ridden with guilt for botching the assassination and now leaving his brother in arms alone.

If you thought there was any bit of happiness to end Anthropoid, then you thought wrong. The basement dwellers hear silence above them, so they know their comrades are dead. Eventually their position is discovered, and it becomes a desperation time. The Nazis are flooding the basement (actually a smart move), and the Davids are finally getting overrun by Goliath’s might. It is sad, but also profound. These men gave everything, and more.

Anthropoid is just a high quality movie. Did director and writer Sean Ellis have higher asperations than minimal awards recognition and barely five million dollars in box office? Probably. But as a streaming option on Amazon Prime, I heartedly recommend it to any espionage or world war two fan.

Some other random tid-bits before I close it out.

  • How cool would it be to to see Cillian Murphy be a bond movie villain? Could you see him put in a performance like Javier Bardem in Skyfall (2012)? I could.
  • I think that Anthropoid could be a good double feature with Defiance (2008). Cillian Murphy and Daniel Craig back-to-back? Sure, why not. Or if you want a little bit of a less violent route, how about Operation Finale (2018)? Has Oscar Isaac if you still want that older man “I’ll protect you” energy.
  • Does Toby Jones play the same character in every movie? I swear he wears glasses, is a quiet and slightly mysterious man who finds himself in tough positions. I remember first seeing him in the TV show Wayward Pines, but in recent years he has popped up in The Wonder (2022) and The Pale Blue Eye (2023). I am not upset to see him, but I am just seeing him a lot recently.

Watch Anthropoid on Amazon Prime.


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