VOD film review: Anthropoid
Chris Bryant | On 25, Jun 2017
Director: Sean Ellis
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan
Watch Anthropoid online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
Anthropoid is the story of Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan), and Josef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy), two military agents of the exiled Czechoslovakian Government tasked with the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in 1941.
Co-written (with Anthony Frewin), produced and directed by Sean Ellis, the film captures a heart-breaking vision of war in Czechoslovakia, a country initially abandoned by the allies, until Germany invaded Poland and war was declared. Dispensing with the chaotic and brutal aspects displayed in modern war films (e.g. Hacksaw Ridge, Fury), Ellis’ dual focus is on the misery of a devastated country and the singular, desperate focus of the assassins.
Following the pair from their parachute landing, the film does not shy away from realism in order to tell a story, instead allowing a level of humanity to bleed through the cracks and build the characters. Dornan and Murphy’s unwavering soldiers are not given backstories, or introductions, or many personal features. To the viewer, Kubis and Gabcik are characterised solely through their reactions to the misery that fills the Czech air, and their determination to kill Heydrich.
Based on the true events of Operation Anthropoid, the film shows a pair of agents undertaking their duties with no room for error. In an early scene, they are shown aborting a plan simply because their dates – members of the Czech Resistance – were drawing a little too much attention. This grows into their reconnaissance and plot to hit Heydrich, with ever-growing pressure from their superiors, and finally to one of the most jaw-dropping final acts of the last year.
Beyond the misery and desperation of the Czech war, Anthropoid comfortably showcases two actors in their prime. Dornan, having hit big with 50 Shades, proves his worth playing a soldier with a shred of humanity left in him, a subtle move by the writing team to keep the quieter assassin relatable. Cillian Murphy, often speaking for the pair and almost always doing so to state they will be continuing in the face of grave new challenges, employs his patented fearful/sober stare to produce a deeply heartfelt performance.
The result is as concentrated and motivated as its protagonists. Showing no whimsy, or room for anything but ‘the mission’, Anthropoid tells a real-world story of unimaginable heroism.
Anthropoid is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.