FlixChatter Review: Anthropoid (2016)


I love historical-based films that really made you want to read more about the actual events. Anthropoid, based on the true story of Operation Anthropoid to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich, is one such film. WWII history buffs would surely know about the ‘Butcher of Prague’ monster that was Heydrich. He’s known as the main architect behind the Final Solution, the Nazi’s plan to exterminate all the Jews in Europe. “It’s assassination, not murder,” one main character said about Heydrich early in the film, “murder implies he’s got a life worth living.” 

To say this is a dangerous operation is putting it mildly. Now it would be appropriate to call this select group of Czech commandos ‘Suicide Squad’ because none of them have special powers and there’s no rescue mission after they carry out their operation. The film center on Jozef Gabčík (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubiš (Jamie Dornan), a pair of Czech paratroopers who were dropped in Czechoslovakia. Right from the start, this film was suspenseful and intense. As Gabčík’s foot was injured when he landed, they had to find shelter and medication, as well as face traitors who threaten to expose them.


The two Irish actors gave a compelling and very human portrayal of the two main paratroopers. I can’t say if their Czech accent was spot on, but at least it wasn’t distracting. I was most impressed with Cillian Murphy who always gives an understated but captivating performance. Gabčík is the more experienced of the two, and I learned later that Kubiš actually replaced the original soldier who was injured in training. I’m not as familiar with Jamie Dornan (nope I don’t care to watch that Fifty Shades movie), and at first I thought he’s too much of a pretty boy for the role. But I think he acquits himself well, showing the inner struggle and anxiety of carrying out the mission. Kubiš’ hand tremble as he tried to shoot a traitor, but later on he fought valiantly just like the rest of the resistance group.

Anthropoid is appropriately gripping and intense, but not overly somber. The two men, despite knowing it’s a suicide mission, did fall for two women whom they met during the operation, portrayed by Charlotte Le Bon as Marie and Anna Geislerová as Lenka. I was more drawn to the more restraint relationship of Gabčík and Lenka, but I’m glad the romance never overshadowed the real story or took the focus away from the main mission. Toby Jones and Harry Lloyd particularly stood out from the resistance group. It seems that Jones’ become a top choice for WWII-related roles with accents.


There are two main parts to the story, the events leading up to the assassination event and the aftermath. Filmmaker Sean Ellis (who co-wrote the film with Anthony Frewin) stayed true to the historical event, which some critics call boring and by-the-numbers. Now, the filmmaker might lack narrative ambition, but I have no problem with the decision to stay close to the real story. I do think there’s enough drama and stylistic elements that separates this from a documentary. I find myself on the edge of my seat practically the entire time, as even the slower moments of just people talking and planning the operation itself is brimming with suspense that they could get caught at any moment. There’s also an apparent conflict within the Czech resistance group, as some fear (reasonably so) that the Nazi would destroy their country in retaliation.

The actual assassination itself was pretty well-staged. I already knew what happened from reading about it, but seeing it portrayed on screen was still quite thrilling. I guess one lesson from this is they ought to get a proper weapon from America instead of using the British Sten gun that’s apparently prone to jamming. The group originally thought they had failed this mission, it wasn’t until a week later that they found out Heydrich’s fate. Some historians wonder if this covert operation was worth it, considering the huge cost Czechoslovakia paid in its aftermath.

Two Czech villages are leveled to the ground and over 5000 Czech people were brutally killed following Heydrich’s death. But as the famous quote says ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,’ it’s no doubt these men were true heroes. They fought bravely for their country at the cost of their own (as well as their families) lives. Even if that mission made the Nazi top officers (even Heydrich’s bosses Hitler & Himmler) think they’re not so invincible after all, who’s to say it wasn’t worth it? The sheer brutality of Germany’s reprisal also led to the Allies to dissolve the Munich Agreement.


I wouldn’t say this is an enjoyable film given the harrowing subject matter, but I was engrossed in the story throughout. There’s a particularly brutal torture scene that warrants its R-rating but overall it’s not loaded with violence or gore. The group’s last stand at the crypt of a Czech Orthodox church is especially intense but still grounded, not resorting to typical Hollywood bombast. The sepia-toned film is beautifully-shot on location in Prague and the music adds a haunting atmosphere to the whole operation.  The 1940s costumes and vintage set pieces adds authenticity to the period. I’d say this is a pretty stylish film despite its small budget of $9 million.

I’m glad I saw this film on the big screen. It’s an important subject matter that is worth learning about and it certainly made me want to learn more about the actual events. It may not be flashy or spectacular but Anthropoid is a solid and fascinating film. Apparently Ellis started working on this film in early 2000s after seeing a documentary and his passion on this topic showed on screen. This film also made me itch to go to Prague and I definitely would visit the historical locations featured in this film.


What are your thoughts on Anthropoid?

28 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Anthropoid (2016)

  1. WOO HOO! So glad to read your thoughts. I love this film and can’t get it out of my mind. You touch on so many things I loved about it. I hadn’t read about the tiny budget. That impresses me even more. Still a lot of movies ahead this year, but I can see Anthropoid having a spot on my Top 10. I loved it that much.

    1. Hi Keith! I’m thrilled you saw this and loved it too! We are definitely in similar camp in our love for indie films. Yes it’s a small-budget, I just read about it today actually. It actually looked more expensive than that. Btw, I think you’d be interested in reading this: http://www.bleeckerstreetmedia.com/editorial/reinhard-heydrich-anatomy-of-a-monster Man it made me shudder reading it, but it made the operation featured in this film all the more meaningful.

  2. I almost saw this one this past weekend, but heard too many negative things that I decided it wasn’t worth the 45 minute drive. Now you have me questioning my decision and slightly hoping it will still be playing this weekend.

    1. Hello Steven! I’m glad I didn’t put too much stock into majority of critics. Certain films warrant my own viewing so that I could make up my own mind and this is one of them. It’s not a *fun* film and not much action going on, but it’s gripping and suspenseful throughout.

  3. I might go see it this weekend if I can’t find a theater that shows Hell or High Water. I assume the actors all spoke English with Czech accents? That’s one pet peeve I have with films, I don’t understand why they would speak English to one another if they’re suppose play characters whose native language isn’t English. Hopefully there’s a reason why they speak English to one another?

    1. Well, the actors are Irish so they don’t actually speak Czech. I have no problem with it, I mean it’s unrealistic to have an entirely Czech cast for a British-made film. Hollywood does it all the time when they tell stories of other cultures, heck they even alter the races of the actual people. I think they did a pretty decent job bringing this operation to screen. It’s not perfect but it certainly resonated with me emotionally and made me want to learn more about the actual history.

      1. Oh exactly, I especially can’t stand films from Hollywood that basically assume all of us don’t like to read subtitles and have character speaks in English yet with accents of their native tongue. Fincher’s The Girl with Dragon Tattoo is a prime example of that. Of course I haven’t seen this film, so I’ll go in it with an open mind and hopefully the story will make up for my gripe.

        One of the reasons why I loved QT’s Inglorious Basterds was because he insisted on having people speak in their native language, studio wanted him to have all of the actors speaks English. Of course that’s a fantasy version of WWII.

        1. For sure this one doesn’t feel too ‘Hollywood’ as it’s a British indie. I think it’s rare to see films where the actors speak the native tongue of whatever country it’s set in unless it has a huge budget for the actors to get a dialect coach. For me it’s more important that the actors convey the sentiment the story requires.

  4. Oh, good, I’m so glad you liked it. This was one I’ve been looking forward to watching. I sure like Cillian Murphy and Toby Jones never disappoints. I’m not familiar with the other cast members. Nice review, Ruth.

    1. Cillian Murphy is definitely one of my favorite actors. I like that he’s more of a character actor despite his good looks. That Jamie guy is massively popular because of that Fifty Shades movie, lots of my Twitter shares are from his rabid fans LOL! Yeah, Toby Jones is always interesting to watch. I think you’d like this Cindy, it certainly made me read a ton of stuff about the real history and Heydrich’s disgusting monstrosity.

  5. Damn I love WWII history, looks like I’m waiting for BR for this one. Sounds great Ruth, though I’m with Ted, I do prefer these sorta films to be spoken in the language it should be. Enemy at the Gates is one of the worst examples of that, Jude Law playing a Russian sniper, with an English freaking accent haha! This one sounds a lot better though, can’t wait to see it.

    1. Hi Jordan! If you love WWII history you’d like this one. I prefer they speak the language of the country it’s set in too, but I think that’s unrealistic to expect that every time. Well at least their accents here aren’t distracting, at least not to me, but that could be because I’m not as familiar w/ the Czech language. I actually think the look & feel of this film seems authentic.

        1. Yeah, it’d definitely be more immersive if every film could have actors speaking the language the film’s set in. But even in a huge-budget movie, I think it’s still more challenging to have the actors speak the actual language as opposed to English w/ an accent 😉

          1. Oh totally, its extremely challenging. But I s’pose when you have guys like Viggo, who could speak an accented French if you asked him to, I kinda think…. yeah Viggo is the man, but why is no one else that invested in their craft? Sam Riley obviously did a lot of work because his German was -excellent-. But I agree, no doubt it is more challenging.

            Have you seen Enemy At The Gates though? The accents are hilarious, the two Russian snipers have a pommie accent and an American accent. Haha it’s awful, though if you can past it the movie actually isn’t terrible.

  6. Cillian Murphy’s in it. I bet you were first in the queue at your screening Ruth! Looking forward to seeing this one. I took like World War II dramas and this sounds like a fascinating one.

    1. Ahah, well I’m not crushing on him the way I am w/ Sam Riley 😉 But yeah he’s a terrific actor and glad to see him in a leading role. Definitely recommend this if you’re fond of WWII films, Dan!

  7. Pingback: Top 10 Favorite Movies from the FIRST HALF of 2016

  8. Pingback: AUGUST 2016 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

    1. Hi Nostra! I’m surprised you hadn’t heard of this but hey, glad to be the one to introduce stuff to you. This is a good one, worth seeing for sure.

      1. Well, I’m starting to see you as my secret advisor for great movies others haven’t heard about. Beyond the Lights was an example and when I showed It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong at the Dutch blog meetup I got asked how I found it 🙂 Still trying to contact the people behind that gangster movie you recommended (the one from Canada I think), but haven’t had much luck yet.

  9. Pingback: A trio of brand new trailers: FREE FIRE, LIVE BY NIGHT and THE PROMISE

  10. Pingback: Top 10 BEST Movies of 2016

Join the conversation by leaving a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s