Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jamie Dornan, Cillian Murphy, Charlotte Le Bon, Anna Geislerová, Toby Jones, Harry Lloyd, Alena Mihulová, Bill Milner, Pavel Reznícek, Jirí Simek, Sam Keeley, Detlef Bothe
Written by: Sean Ellis, Anthony Frewin
Directed by: Sean Ellis
MPAA Rating: R for violence and some disturbing images
Running Time: 120
Date: 08/12/2016

Anthropoid (2016)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

There are a great many important stories of WWII worth telling, but sometimes movies, like this one, take the wrong approach, and we end up with something that's poorly-made, tedious, and depressing.

Though the title sounds like it could be about a giant space monster, it's not. As Anthropoid begins, two parachuters, Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan) and Josef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy), land in occupied Czechoslovakia during WWII; their mission — "Operation Anthropoid" — is to assassinate third-in-command Nazi Reinhard Heydrich, otherwise known as the "Butcher of Prague" and the architect of Hitler's "Final Solution."

With the help of Czech underground rebels, they learn about Heydrich's comings and goings, and before long, it's time. The attempt does not go exactly as planned, and the men find themselves hiding out in a church while the Nazis begin a cruel and systematic manhunt, mowing down anyone that stands in their way. Will the heroes' work be worth something in the end?

Writer/director Sean Ellis and co-writer Anthony Frewin apparently researched Anthropoid heavily, but still managed to leave out basic details that would let an audience know a little something about the characters onscreen, or even how to tell the seven parachutists in the story apart from one another.

We're rarely aware of simple details like "who," "what," "where," or "why." The overall gray sheen, and the irritating, constantly wobbly shaky-cam cinematography do not help, especially since much of the movie is shot in close or medium shots. Anthropoid is structured in such a way that it's either numbingly repetitive or anti-climactic, or else it falls back on overly familiar modern transitional techniques to bridge the events. The ending -- possibly meant to be elegiac -- will leave most viewers thoroughly dispirited.

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