A faithful construction of the heroic Czech resistance in WWII
Cillian Murphy commands the screen with a quiet intensity in this obsessively accurate recreation of a little known (in the US) resistance to the Nazi regime in occupied Czechoslovakia. Murphy’s Jozef Gabcik is fully committed to the mission: assassinating the brutal Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich. We’ve seen this rebellious streak from Murphy before in the 2006 Golden Hitchaboo award-winning THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY. The revelation in ANTHROPOID is Jamie Dornan Gabcik’s partner, the idealistic resistance fighter Jan Kubis. Dornan displays quiet confidence, following Gabcik and ready to give up his life for the Czech cause, until he is faced with reality and must decide for himself. A mix of locally based Czech actors and familiar names (Toby Jones, Charlotte Le Bon) fill out the ensemble.
The production’s choice to film on location in and around Prague was well worth the effort as director Sean Ellis transplants the viewer directly into 1940s Bohemia with remarkably authentic recreations of Prague streets, soldier uniforms, and an astute choice of sepia tones throughout. The actors couldn’t help but feel authentic as they played out the events of ANTHROPOID on the same streets that their real-life counterparts did 75 years ago.
Sean Ellis creates a palpable undercurrent of dread and suspense surrounding Gabcik and Kubis’ target; Reinhard Heydrich. He is a ‘boogeyman’ towering over and terrorizing occupied Prague. Just the mention of his name strikes fear in the townspeople who shelter the resistance.
There were some writing and directing choices that could have been excluded; such as the on-the-nose inclusion of one resistance fighter reading Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Additionally, the foreshadowing was a bit too heavy-handed, leaving true mystery to the outcome absent. Lastly, director Sean Ellis could have taken more risks to distinguish ANTHROPOID among the many WWII spy thrillers that it share similarities with.
- Acting: 7/10 – Solid all-around but no true star performances
- Directing: 7/10 – A workmanlike job but no memorable calling cards
- Set Design: 9/10 – Usage of contemporary accounts to recreate events rings authentic
- Screenwriting: 5/10 – Interesting but predictable
7/10, A satisfying, if otherwise unremarkable historical spy thriller with a routinely solid performance by Cillian Murphy.