Saturday, August 27, 2016

Movie Review #476: "Anthropoid" (2016)

Director: Sean Ellis
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 0 minutes
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A pair of Czechoslovakian soldiers parachutes into German-occupied Prague for operation Anthropoid, which has a mission objective to assassinate the Nazi third-in-command, Reinhard Heydrich.

Directed by Sean Ellis, "Anthropoid" is a true WWII drama about a mission to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the third-inicommand for the Third Reich and one of the principal planners of the "Final Solution." It stars Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan, who play a pair of Czechoslovakian soldiers named Josef Gabcík and Jan Kubis, who are tasked with the aforementioned mission, dubbed "Anthropoid." The basic story behind this film sounds like a compelling one subject wise. Though Heydrich was third-in-command, it's always interesting to see WWII movies that don't focus on Hitler directly because there are so few of them out there. The planning and execution of a mission such as Anthropoid should make for a captivating film. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and "Anthropoid" winds up being rather dull and uneven as it gets lost in its sloppy execution. The first three fourths of it is borderline mundane and meandering, never really sure if it wants to be as it is part romance, part drama, part thriller, and part historical war picture. It focuses heavily on two possible romantic relationships the aforementioned men have with two women named Marie Kovárníková, played by Charlotte Le Bon, who has a romance with Jamie Dornan's Jan, and Lenka Fafková, played by Anna Geislerová, who is paired up with Cillian Murphy's Josef. Josef's and Lenka's relationship isn't quite as impassioned as Jan and Marie's, who hit it off instantly and fall in love during wartime, even as Jan is tasked with a mission that could end his life at any moment.

After the love story takes a back seat, the film focuses on Jan and Josef, along with the Czechoslovakian resistance, planning out Heydrich's assassination by tracking his comings and goings using assets working inside his building to gain information. One might hope the story would pick up a little bit in this planning phase, which sounds like it could be enthralling, but again, it really isn't. It's not until after they carry out their somewhat failed plan when it all finally starts to pick up the pace. The fallout from their attack on Heydrich becomes the most engaging part by far, and even when our protagonists are in danger, it never loses steam in its final moments. It all leads to a grand finale showdown that is far more exciting than anything else that has happened the hour and 30 minutes leading up to it, leaving just a mere 30 minutes for something interesting to actually happen. Director Sean Ellis focuses too much on crafting this grandiose finale, which works with us and against us as viewers. Ellis is clearly more concerned with creating an exciting ending than making everything leading up to it worthwhile. Though some viewers may be able to forgive the rather boring initial 90 minutes for 30 minutes of excitement and intrigue, we would personally prefer our thrills dealt out in a more evenhanded manner. The good comes a little too late. This messy distribution of excitement reminds us of "Jane Got a Gun" from earlier this year, which has nearly the exact same slow unfolding of events early on that leads to a whopper of a finale. Cillian Murphy does a fine job here, but none of the performances are really anything to write home about. Jamie Dornan's accent gets distracting after a while, as does Charlotte Le Bon's, but at the end of the day, we don't really remember the performances because they aren't good enough to overcome the dullness early seen on in the film.

Though "Anthropoid" is not a completely terrible movie, we cannot truly say it is worth the time we spent watching it. History buffs may enjoy this film, but for most of us, it's a mundane and messily constructed film with some nice enough visuals surrounding all of the horrors going on inside Prague. We wouldn't mind seeing this story told again in a more engrossing manner at some point in the future.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 58%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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