Watching World War II movies is a good way to motivate myself to read up more about the various operations and events that took place during it. I did not know about Czechoslovakia and Reinhard Heydrich before watching this movie. Recently, I have been much too interested in Cillian Murphy and since Jamie Dornan also stars in it (a chance to see him as anything but Christian Grey), I picked this one first. I suppose I will be commenting on Cillian Murphy’s movies for the next few posts. In any case, Anthropoid is what kicked off May’s movie watching.
For a war movie, it didn’t feel intense enough until the second half. The acting was good. The writing could have been better. It all seemed too quick and easy in the beginning. Rather than dropping Jozef and Jan right at the beginning, some preamble would have been nice. Written words are not nearly so effective. Something startling, possibly some terrifying scenes from Czechoslovakia or maybe even Jozef and Jan being sent off from London – something, anything would have been nice. As such, it is hard to generate sympathy for Jozef and Jan out of nowhere when one of them has an injured foot and they are almost betrayed. Yes, they seem to be on an urgent mission but the urgency is not driven home well.
Even by the time Jan has started to hit on Maria and Jozef asks if she has friends, it is not quite engaging. I was just hanging on for Cillian Murphy’s acting but he didn’t have much to work with even though he was trying his best. It is only after it is declared that they must do the job the next day that things pick up a little. Jamie isn’t bad but he pales next to Cillian. I like the scene where Jozef has to calm down Jan but Jan’s character didn’t seem deep enough until then. As a viewer, I had to exert quite an effort to feel for the movie – and that isn’t what the viewers should be doing at all.
Marie and Lenka’s reactions when they learn what Jozef and Jan are really there for, well, that was when the movie shines for a bit. Now you’re thinking. Is it worth it to kill Heydrich? It hasn’t been that bad until now but once Heydrich is dead, shxt is really going to hit the fan. These are Czechoslovakian agents but they have been sent from London. Germany is going to hit back at innocent Czechoslovakians. The conflicting feelings of the Resistance makes it interesting. The initial failure of the assassins – and yes, then it really gets much better.
All the torture and gore in retaliation is chilling. The hopelessness of their situation was not driven in very well in the first half so things spiraling out of control in the second half loses some of its impact. However, it is still loads better than the first half. The betrayal doesn’t seem much like a betrayal when you think about why the agents were betrayed in the first place – to save the innocent Czechoslovakians from the German retaliation. More political background scenes would have been wonderful. Even so, seeing the agents fight back hard is amazing. That part is really good. The cruelty of the Nazi regime and the perseverance of the abandoned and betrayed Czechoslovakians – this part is well done.
Alena Mihulová was amazing, by the way. A middle aged mother and wife being a soldier in an operation – that was really good to watch.
The romances of Jozef and Lenka felt a little forced and inconsistent with Jozef’s character. Of course, even Jozef can fall in love – but the fact that he can fall in love “so much” when he is stone faced and prepared to die for his country is a bit of a stretch. Jan and Marie are much more believable. The romances could have been sacrificed for more a backstory for Jozef and Jan because that would have garnered more of viewer’s sympathy. The writing left so much to be desired, really. There is a lot more that can be put into a two hour movie.
In the end, when Jozef sees Lenka before dying – well, it wasn’t very emotional at all. I’m sure Jozef fell thinking that he had served his part in the war. Jan might have thought of Marie. Jozef thought of a better Czechoslovakia. After all, wasn’t Jozef shown as the one who is a gritty soldier and Jan, the one who is more scared and just wants a peaceful life?
Cillian Murphy has so much to give – I really hope he gets parts in much better written movies.