Anthropoid full movie review - A fantastic finale, good acting and the ability to portray real events make this one to watch despite lack of character or depth and occasional dullness.
'Anthropoid' tells the tale of a group of soldiers sent to Czechoslovakia to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, also known as 'The Butcher Of Prague', during World War II.
The movie is very bleak, with a sense of hopelessness and futility throughout, but it is mostly engaging due to some stand-out set-pieces and attention to detail. It is well acted, directed, shot and written but the pacing and character development take an unfortunate hit as the flick spends its time meticulously setting up the situation. Nevertheless, I thought it was entertaining and worth a watch despite its problems and occasionally 'hard-to-watch' nature.
The feature was shot in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia), which really benefits its believability. The location works best when we are on the ground with the actors, lending to a palpable sense of place. It highlights the fact that this really happened, as well as making you feel as though you are actually there. There are several recognisable locations and landmarks, on top of the distinct architecture and accurate period elements, all of which add an air of credibility. There were a couple of establishing shots that looked especially digital, obvious matte paintings that distract from the immersion, though these may have been less to do with the locations themselves and more to do with removing the modern elements. There is a lot of attention to detail, director/ co-writer Sean Ellis and co-writer Anthony Frewin definitely did their homework; they paint a clear and passionate picture of a time, place and series of events that are often overlooked. One downside of this precision is that the flick often feels bogged down in the details, so it loses its focus on character and crafting a compelling narrative. It is nice to know it's mainly accurate but sometimes these details detriment the film ? it isn't a documentary and should therefore have character depth, tension and a taught pace as opposed to simply retelling events. Some things have been changed, though, most notably during the assassination attempt itself; a key detail has been edited and it actively detracts from the believability of the sequence. Having said that, the scene is very well done: it is tense, dramatic and unpredictable (to an extent). The finale is also incredibly visceral and gruelling, with a growing sense of dread and desperation, which serves as a very memorable book-end to the piece. It's one of the better scenes of that nature that I've seen all year and, aside from a couple of pretentious semi-surreal elements later on, is very well executed and incredibly 'in-the-moment.'
The film unfortunately drags quite a bit towards the middle, where little happens in terms of the plot or even character development. The scenes in question feel unnecessary, and the feature in general seems inefficient with its conveyance of information. It almost feels as though there is a longer cut in here, where the down-time is bolstered by deeper character growth and extra intricacies, but also feels as though it could've been much shorter, by streamlining some scenes to contain more exposition and retaining a greater focus on the main plot; the benefit of the longer cut would be to have a greater connection with the actual characters, as well as reinforcing some relationships that seem to spring from nowhere, while the benefit of the shorter cut would be a more action-packed and tense thriller. As is, we end up getting a cut that's seemingly between the two, meaning that a lot of the film is unfocused and it gets a little dull. The movie excels at conveying the situation, as well as the consequences and inevitabilities of that situation ? it is firmly shaded in shades of grey, though the Nazis are still obviously villainous; unfortunately, it falls short at conveying character. I don't have a sense of who these people were, and this means that it is hard to truly care about them beyond the knowledge that they actually existed. If we were more connected to the leads, the film would instantly be more interesting and tense.
The acting is all good here though, with Jamie Dornan giving a convincing performance - though he ultimately doesn't have much to do - and Cillian Murphy turning in a more nuanced and authentic one. They work well as leads, but aren't developed nearly enough. The rest of the cast do a great job of fitting into the place and time, as well as acting as necessary supplements to the situation. It is nice to see that a few Czech actors worked in the feature, most notably Anna Geislerová, as well as some polish and other mid- European ones. The main problem I have with this side of things is the decision to utilise accents. Many of the British actors, especially Toby Jones I'm sad to say, can't convincingly pull of the desired accent and the subtleties of the varying regions is somewhat lost. They could've used natural accents with the pretence that the feature would be translating all of the Czech into English, which would still allow for the Germans to speak German as they do. The use of the accents may be to bridge to gap between the British, Czech, Polish and other European actor's dialects though ? so as to avoid the issue of Valkyrie's varying English/ American accents dubbing for German ones. The accents didn't bother me tremendously but a couple of lines lost their believability due to shoddy delivery. Heydrich isn't paid much attention either, and a big flaw is that we are constantly told why he needs to be killed but are never shown it; if you don't know the history, the urgency is lost.
Overall, 'Anthropoid' is a well-crafted accurate portrayal of important WWII events that are often over-looked. The finale is fantastic, the acting is good and the situation is conveyed well, but it is dull in places and lacks any real characterisation or depth: 6/10