Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sean Ellis|
|Edited by||Richard Mettler|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$5.3 million|
Anthropoid is a 2016 epic war film directed by Sean Ellis, written by Ellis and Anthony Frewin and starring Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Charlotte Le Bon, Anna Geislerová, Harry Lloyd, and Toby Jones. It tells the story of Operation Anthropoid, the World War II assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by Exile Czechoslovak soldiers on 27 May 1942. It was released 12 August 2016 in the United States and 9 September 2016 in the United Kingdom.
It is December 1941, near the height of Nazi occupation in Europe. Two agents from the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, a Slovak soldier, Jozef Gabčík (Cillian Murphy) and a Czech, Jan Kubiš (Jamie Dornan) are parachuted into their occupied homeland. Jozef is injured when he crashes through a tree upon landing, but both men set out to find their contact in Czechoslovakia. They are discovered shortly after by two resistance fighters who turn out to be traitors; one is shot by Jozef but the other man escapes. Stealing their truck, the agents head for Prague.
When they seek out their contact, they are directed to Dr. Eduard (Sean Mahon), who stitches Jozef's foot, and arranges for the agents to meet other members of the resistance, led by "Uncle" Jan Zelenka-Hajský (Toby Jones). The agents reveal that they are to execute "Operation Anthropoid," the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich (Detlef Bothe), the main architect of the Final Solution, and the head of Nazi forces in German–occupied Czechoslovakia.
With limited intelligence and little equipment in a city under lock-down, Jozef and Jan must find a way to assassinate Heydrich, an operation that, they hope, will change the face of Europe. With the help of two young women, Marie Kovárníková (Charlotte Le Bon) and Lenka Fafková (Anna Geislerová) along with other plotters, the agents plan to ambush Heydrich as he arrives at his headquarters by car. When the agents learn that Heydrich is about to be transferred to France, the plan goes into effect with the duo bolstered by the addition of other agents who have been parachuted into Czechoslovakia and the remaining resistance fighters in Prague.
On 27 May 1942, the attack is carried out; it is nearly botched when Jozef's Sten submachine gun jams, but Heydrich is severely wounded by Jan's grenade that shatters his limousine. Immediately after, the assassins go on the run, and Nazi forces round up thousands of Czech citizens and carry out a terrible reprisal. Lenka is killed trying to escape Nazi soldiers on the street. Resistance fighter Karel Čurda (Jiří Šimek) turns on the agents and reveals the family which hid them. Meanwhile, the agents have now relocated and hide in the Orthodox Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Prague. Heydrich soon dies from his injuries in the hospital. Reprisals continue with the village of Lidice destroyed with all the males over age 16 shot, children and women sent to camps.
The family who Jozef and Jan stay with are punished, their house attacked by numerous Gestapo officers. The mother commits suicide by taking a cyanide tablet in the bathroom. The son is brutally tortured and gives in to the Nazis' demands. He tells them where Jozef and Jan are hiding, in the cathedral. Hundreds of Nazi troops storm the cathedral and all the agents are killed in a fierce 6-hour battle. Ultimately, a total of 5,000 Czechs and Slovaks were killed in the aftermath of the "Heydrich Terror". The assassination of SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich was the only successful government organised assassination of a top-ranking Nazi in the Second World War.
- Cillian Murphy as Jozef Gabčík
- Jamie Dornan as Jan Kubiš
- Charlotte Le Bon as Marie Kovárníková
- Anna Geislerová as Lenka Fafková
- Harry Lloyd as Adolf Opálka
- Toby Jones as Uncle Hajský
- Alena Mihulová as Mrs. Moravec
- Marcin Dorociński as Ladislav Vaněk
- Bill Milner as Ata Moravec
- Sam Keeley as Josef Bublík
- Jiří Šimek as Karel Čurda
- Mish Boyko as Jan Hrubý
- Václav Neužil as Josef Valcik
- Andrej Polák as Jaroslav Svarc
- Sean Mahon as Dr. Eduard
- Detlef Bothe as Reinhard Heydrich
In March 2015, Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy were cast in Anthropoid, with Sean Ellis directing a screenplay written by Ellis and Anthony Frewin. In May 2015, LD Entertainment boarded the film, announcing the casting of Charlotte Le Bon.
The film was shot entirely in Prague during the summer of 2015, and where possible, at the actual locations of the events they depict. Director Sean Ellis stated in interview that scenes in the Orthodox Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius were filmed on an exact replica of the church on a studio backlot, so as to make the location recognisable to Czech viewers. Gestapo and Czech contemporary reports allowed Ellis to recreate the film's final act (the assassination and church siege) with extreme accuracy, and intense planning was necessary to allow for the assassination itself to play in real time, with each resistance member's movements researched, planned and tracked in order to reflect actual events.
The principal photography for Anthropoid includes backdrops such as Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge in Prague, the locations where Operation Anthropoid took place. At the premiere screening and later advance screenings, audience members noted that the authentic street scenes were featured in the film.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, Anthropoid has an approval rating of 66% based on 102 reviews, with an average rating of 6.39/10. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 59 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". The film has garnered praise for its commitment to realism and true events.
In his review for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw wrote, "An intelligent, tough, and gripping movie." The Washington Post's Christopher Kompanek gave the film four out of four stars, writing: "Anthropoid never feels formulaic—a surprise in a summer release. (With luck, Academy Award voters won't forget this one.)"
At the Czech Lion Awards, Anthropoid received 12 nominations, out of 14 categories in which it was eligible (all except best actress and best supporting actress). The film lost all 12 nominations to A Prominent Patient. Anthropoid won the non-statutory Czech Lion in the "Film Fans Award" category.
Other films on this subject:
- Hangmen Also Die! (1943)
- Hitler's Madman (1943)
- The Silent Village (1943)
- Atentát (1964)
- Operation Daybreak (1975)
- Lidice (2011)
- The Man with the Iron Heart (2016)
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- Burgess 1983, p. 160.
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- Variety's chief film critic Peter Debruge felt that "Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy spearhead a mission to assassinate a top-ranking Nazi officer in a thriller that doesn't actually get thrilling until after the deed is done."
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