Thursday, 15 September 2016

"Anthropoid" - a historian's review

Bloody typical!  You wait 40 years for a film about the wartime assassination of Obergruppenfuehrer Reinhard Heydrich, and then two come along at once...! 

The first of these - "Anthropoid" - I saw last night.  And it is very good. 

It follows the story of Heydrich's two assassins - Jan Kubiš (Jamie Dornan) and Jozef Gabčík (Cillian Murphy) - from their arrival in occupied Czechoslovakia, parachuted in courtesy of SOE, to their deaths at the hands of the Germans in the aftermath of their successful killing of Heydrich. 

Of course, my primary concern was that the history is not played with too much, and in this regard the film certainly did not disappoint: production values were excellent and it had the all-important whiff of authenticity: the Germans spoke German and the Czech accents were maintained throughout - indeed some of the actors - such as the luminous Anna Geislerová - are themselves Czechs. The narrative, too, did not noticeably stray from the historic one - every aspect was there; the betrayal, the cyanide, the razing of Lidice - even the head in a bucket... 

Historically then, "Anthropoid" is pretty much faultless. Dramatically, too, it is very strong.  It is structured, effectively, as a long crescendo, climaxing with the deadly siege at the church.  This generally works well, though the first half of the film - with scene setting, characterisation etc - was a tad slow. Murphy and Dornan were very convincing as Gabcik and Kubis, though the characters might have been fleshed out a little more - even allowing some artistic licence - and the tensions between them and the domestic resistance might have been turned up a notch.

Nonetheless, that is a minor criticism.  Overall, "Anthropoid" showed how history can be translated brilliantly to the big screen without excessive compromise in terms of historical accuracy.  It is well worth a watch. 

The other Heydrich-assassination-themed film, by the way, is the adaptation of the Laurent Binet novel "HHhH" - which is due for release later this year.