With cinema’s decades old WW2 obsession showing no sign of slowing down, Sean Ellis’s latest offering is a decidedly atypical entry in the great war movie catalogue.
‘Anthropoid’ is an account of the assassination of SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, one of the chief architects of the Holocaust, by Czech and Slovak soldiers Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš – its planning, execution and the brutal reprisals which followed (For the record, I do not consider matters of historical fact to be spoilers).
Cilian Murphy’s taciturn, intensely driven Gabčík may be slightly glacial but serves to emphasise his weaker moments and complements Jamie Dornan’s less confident but equally earnest Kubiš.
The tone is powerfully understated. Given the subject matter, this could easily have been an over-romanticised hero-fest or a gratuitous slideshow of Nazi atrocities, but it isn’t. The focus is the reality of the story and the humanity of the players and the film doesn’t shy away from questioning the justification of their actions.
The lack of Hollywood gloss may put some people off, but in a world where historical fiction heavily influences our perception of the past, it’s pleasing to see filmmakers taking such a considered, even-handed approach to a sensitive topic.