Anthropoid (2016): Film Review

Directed by: Sean Ellis
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan
Viewed: Phoenix Cinema, Leicester, 03/10/16

So here it is! My first proper film review, despite being an avid cinephile for quite a few years, and what a film to begin with! So without further ado:

World War II is probably the single largest global event that has taken place within living memory, and has, of course, spawned countless films. If someone decided to watch every single film based on World War II it would take them several years to finish watching them all, and that doesn’t include the inevitable films that are yet to be released. (Please note: this is not a challenge, and I do not recommend attempting this mad feat) From the multi-Oscar winning ‘Saving Private Ryan’, to Quentin Tarantino’s fictionalised version of events in ‘Inglorious Basterds’. From the terrifyingly claustrophobic ‘Das Boot’, to the lesser known (but brilliant) ‘Went The Day Well?’, we seem to have covered this global event from every angle possible. Yet I applaud Anthropoid for telling a story, that I personally, was completely oblivious to.

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Anthropoid tells the true story of the assassination attempt of SS General Reinhard Heydrich, Adolf Hitler’s third in command. Based in an oppressed Czechoslovakia, two resistance members parachute back into their home country to hatch a plan that could change the course of the entire war. Anthropoid is very focused on the story it is telling, offering very little in terms of what is going on elsewhere within the war, and is better for it. The intimate settings and lack of special effects proves what can be done with a good cast, well written script and solid direction. Whilst this film is not based on the front lines of battle, with waves of soldiers fighting in trenches and planes being shot down in a fiery blaze of glory, it never fails to remind us that this is war and it certainly does have its grim moments, including one torture scene that is pretty difficult to watch. Anthropoid is split into two clear parts, the build up to the assassination attempt and the aftermath (I won’t reveal the outcome of the assassination for those who are unaware of how these events actually played out). Anthropoid succeeds in creating some of the most tense scenes I have bared witness to in a cinema screen, there were moments where you could hear a pin drop. I must partly attribute this to the brilliant acting, especially of Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan, who both do an incredible job of portraying tension and fear whenever on-screen.

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The early stages of the film are very character focused, allowing us to really get to terms with the characters feelings and relationships with one another. It is this slow build up early on in the film that allows the latter action scenes to have a bigger impact, without ever going over the top. Many of the sets used are the original locations where events took place, adding a sense of authenticity and beauty to the story that is already so engrossing. At points, it is easy to forget that you are watching a film, instead, getting lost in the story that is unfolding in front of you. Anthropoid leaves audiences with a conclusion, that will beg the question, was it all worth it? Not since watching Christopher Nolan’s Inception has the roll of the credits left me in such deep thought.

Anthropoid is a solid 8/10.

Fun fact: Detlef Bothe, who plays SS General Reinhard Heydrich, previously portrayed the exact same person in Lidice (2011).

By Stuart Keating