In 1942, two agents of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile are parachuted into their Nazi-occupied homeland near Prague. Jozef (Cillian Murphy) and Jan (Jamie Dornan) have been tasked with Operation Anthropoid- the assassination of Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich, one of the highest ranking officials in the Nazi government, rules over occupied Czechoslovakia with an iron fist (and was also one of the chief architects of the Holocaust). Making contact with the tattered remains of the Resistance against Nazi rule in Prague, Jozef and Jan patiently wait for the opportunity to strike at Heydrich. But their presence endangers everyone they meet, and some members of the Resistance resent being used as pawns by a government in distant London.
Although the plot of Anthropoid may seem reminiscent of the much more famous Valkyrie, it’s not really an apt comparison. Anthropoid is a much slower-burning, more intimate film, a quality that is both a benefit and a hindrance. On the one hand, the smaller scope of the film allows for much more detailed characterization. The two main actors, particularly Murphy, do a good job at portraying hardened resistance members. And this fits the tone well- this is not a triumphant WWII film where the good guys kill a bunch of Nazis and live happily ever after. This is a dark and realistic film showing the violence of war.
On the other hand, the movie’s intimacy means that it lacks some of the epicness that big-budget war films possess. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but unfortunately the film is almost too slow-burn at the start, with very little action until the actual assassination attempt. After that it does pick up significantly, and the ending battle scene in particular is really well-done. I just wish the action had been a little more evenly spread to prevent the middle from getting boring.
Anthropoid is not the best example of a World War II action/drama, but it’s still a decent war film, particularly if you’ve gotten bored of big-budget slug fests. So if you want a little more intimate action film, then you may want to give Anthropoid a chance.