Based on the true story behind two Czechoslovakian operatives’ mission to assassinate S.S. General Reinhard Heydrich, this wannabe WW II thriller should be more suspenseful than it is. In December, 1941, when Czechoslovakian loyalists Josef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan) parachute from London into their Nazi-occupied homeland, they must devise a way to implement “Operation Anthropoid.” Read on…
That’s the code name for the elimination of Heydrich (Detlef Bothe), Hitler’s third-in-command, behind Himmler. As the logistical architect of Hitler’s Final Solution to eradicate the Jewish population, he was known “the butcher of Prague” for his ruthless brutality.
Burdened with historical background about the Munich Agreement in which the Allies allowed the Third Reich to annex the German-speaking Sudentenland, the narrative drags as Josef and Jan attempt to reach Prague.
They need to make contact with what’s left of the Czech Resistance, personified by Ladislav (Marcin Dorocinski) and “Uncle” Hajsky (Toby Jones). But when their reconnaissance decoy ‘girlfriends’ lead to romantic entanglements – Jan with Maria (Charlotte Le Bon) and Josef with Lenka (Anna Geislerova) – betrayal seems inevitable.
After their chaotic attack on Heydrich’s car, the Nazi net tightens, forcing Josef and Jan to take refuge in the basement of Saint Cyril and Methodius Cathedral, along with a couple of other freedom fighters. That’s where the final, six-hour shootout takes place.
Written by Anthony Frewin and British director/cinematographer Sean Ellis, it’s filled with disconcertingly jerky, hand-held camerawork, its deliberately faded color resembling old-newsreel footage, punctuated by a minimalist soundtrack.
It’s also unfortunate that neither Cillian Murphy (“In the Heart of the Sea”) nor Jamie Dornan (“Fifty Shades of Gray”) even approximate a Czech accent.
FYI: A second film about Mission Anthropoid is scheduled later this year, starring Jack O’Connor and Jack Reynold.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Anthropoid” is a flat, somewhat frustrating 5 – for its failure to engage emotionally.