Anthropoid

This weekend sees the release of at least two Toby Jones movies. One is a sci-fi film with the decidedly un-sci-fi title Morgan; the other a war film with the confusingly sci-fi title Anthropoid.

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Operation Anthropoid was a plot by the Czech resistance to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, Hitler’s third-in-command. The always brilliant Cillian Murphy leads the cast, all of whom speak English with Czech accents, which is pointless; either speak Czech or don’t bother with the accent. It’s a dumb decision, but not as dumb as Valkyrie, the Tom Cruise vehicle about a plot to assassinate Hitler, in which the good Germans speak with American accents and the bad Germans with German ones.

Fortunately, we soon forget about the accents, as the historical thriller unfolds with hair-trigger tension. Starting out quietly and building to a crescendo, writer/director/producer Sean Ellis balances tense scenes of waiting with visceral moments of brutality. The washed-out picture looks as though all the colour has been drained from the film and/or Prague, giving it a bleak ghost-town quality, heightened by Robin Foster’s haunting score. Plus, Jamie “Christian Grey” Dornan co-stars, making it 50 Shades of Sepia.

This is an unusually claustrophobic war film, reminiscent of Yann Demange’s ’71, but with the added dimension of reality; that these are real individuals, whose extraordinary bravery deserves to be remembered. There are romantic elements that seem to be invented for dramatic purposes, given that romance would presumably be the last thing on these people’s minds. Otherwise, the film feels strikingly authentic, from the production design to Murphy’s appearance, constantly smoking as if every cigarette could be his last.

Anthropoid may not come with bells and whistles, except for the bells you get on trams in Prague, but anyone bored of 2016’s bigbudget disappointments should Czech it out.

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