"Anthropoid" is based on the extraordinary true story of the 1942 WWII operation to assassinate Nazi commanding officer Reinhard Heydrich. Nicknamed "the butcher of Prague", Heydrich was the Reich's third in command after Hitler and Himmler; the main architect behind the final solution and the leader of Nazi forces in Czechoslovakia.
Gritty, uneasy and tense – Anthropoid is a Hollywood retelling of how a mission to kill Reinhard Heydrich developed, prepared and finally: was executed, but didn’t turn out the same way said conspirators wanted to unravel. And these were Czech and Slovak people whose comrades and compatriots were suffering deeply under Nazi occupation, and who finally took matters in their own hands. As a film, Anthropoid is perfectly paced and as we see each culmination unsnarling before our very eyes – we come to know why these people did what they did, their motivations behind the operation and their iron will to never give up – even in the face of death itself.
According to history books, Reinhard Heydrich was a pretty disliked bloke who was one of the main architects of the infamous Final Solution to the Jewish question, as Germany at the time had referred to what’s now widely known as The Holocaust. He was also in charge of Czechoslovakia, whose residents saw a great amount of suffering while being under his reign.
Needless to say, some people were not pleased with how things turned out for their beloved country.
So, they took upon themselves to free it. Jan Kubis (played by Jamie Dornan), Josef Gabcík (Cillian Murphy) and others, acting on behalf Czechoslovakia’s government in exile, conducted a plan to eliminate Heydrich and put an end to his terror that was long overdue.
However, therein lays this film’s dilemma: if you knew so many people would suffer dire consequences after a campaign like this one – would you still, in a clear conscience, proceed with it?
The plot follows two freedom fighters, Czech Jan and Slovak Jozef who jump aboard enemy territory after their initial training in England is over. Their mission is to locate what’s left of the underground resistance and announce their plan to assassinate the High German official as soon as possible. Upon hearing the conspiracy, other resistance members voiced their concerns and worried that, even in the event of success, there would possibly be grand retaliation upon everyone involved, their closest families and all others who share same beliefs as the Czechoslovakian government-in-exile.
After everything said and done, mission Anthropoid will forever engrave its mark onto history books – overshadowed by events even larger in scale than the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich during WWII.
As structure, Anthropoid closely resembles noir films, where careful pacing and deliberate lightning are key pillars around which everything else gravitates. Director Sean Ellis has managed to make the best cinematic depiction of this historic event that, needless to say – doesn’t end with people throwing flowers on a street and saluting victory with their hats in the air.
A very special tribute to those who fell defending ideals of the highest order.