Sunday, October 2, 2016

Anthropoid (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


"Anthropoid" by director Sean Ellis focuses on a largely forgotten episode in World War II history, namely the pursuit and assassination of elite SS Reinhard Heydrich, known as The Blonde Beast and The Butcher of Prague.

The production is handsome with a piercing cinematography that is appropriately sepia-toned in all the right moments. One is treated to every exchange of gunfire with not one shelling missed by distraction. The details are painstaking and flawless with every footstep shown through a dark alley of historic Prague and all hurried codes duly circled and recorded. It is a shame though that the drama moves slower than a Panzer I tank.

This is mostly due to the stiff delivery of main actors Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey) and Cillian Murphy who portray the real life resistance fighters Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík, respectively. Aside from being expert resistance, we are given no solid keys or colors as to who these people are, and they are shown generically as interchangeable soldiers rather than vivid men, which they undoubtedly were. There are endless scenes of the two men mumbling and scribbling but we know little of their person or what drives them to action. This is a missed opportunity.

Jozef Gabčík is supposed to be enthralled by young Marie (Charlotte Le Bon) but there is little exchange or chemistry. The oft-glimpsed actor Toby Jones is here as Jan Zelenka-Hajský, the man who whispers for the resistance behind the scenes.

All lethargy aside, the time does indeed come to lie in wait for the eerily impersonal Heydritch (Detlef Bothe) and it is at this point that the film succeeds with a heart-pricking tension equal to De Palma. We can all guess what comes next: the brusque march of green helmets smashing against doors with the sad and horrid punching in of faces, heedless of consequence.

There are some pulpy but unfortunately all too real torture scenes. The film benefits greatly from the action sequences, which wisely emphasize existential struggle rather than bravado ala Aldo Ray. Case in point are the stick grenades which are thrown back and forth with a regularity that almost achieves some black humor in spite of itself.

Somber is the outcome. Though portrayed with a stiff upper lip that falls short of pathos, "Anthropoid" deserves credit for its excellent detail in highlighting the fight against one of the most abhorrent men in history.

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