Anthropoid Film Review
In late 1941, Czech soldiers parachuted into occupied Czechoslovakia and prepared to assassinate Rheinhard Heydrich one of the highest-ranking officials in the Nazi regime. A recent British-Czech film, Antrhopoid, has brought this event to the silver screen with surprising historical accuracy. Reader beware, spoilers follow.
On the morning of May 27, 1942, Rheinhard Heydrich was riding in the passenger seat of his black Mercedes convertible as his driver, SS-Obersharfsfuhrer Johannes Klein, drove him through the streets of Prague, in occupied Czechoslovakia. As the vehicle approached a sharp turn along Kirchmayer street, a man stepped in front of the vehicle holding a British-made Sten submachine gun. This was Josef Gabcik, a Czech military officer who had trained with the British SOE before returning to his homeland. Gabcik attempted to fire his weapon at Heydrich; the weapon jammed. As Klein stomped on the brakes and Heydrich stepped from the car with his pistol unholstered and aimed at Gabcik, a second Czech officer, Jan Kubis, threw a grenade at Heydrich’s car. The grenade exploded, sending fragments tearing through the car and wounding both Heydrich and Klein. Both Germans nonetheless returned fire, causing the Czechs to flee- Klein pursued Gabcik until Gabcik wounded him twice with a pistol. Both Czechs were able to evade their pursuers. Meanwhile, Heydrich had collapsed next to the car. Suffering from numerous internal injuries, Heyrdich was rushed to a hospital. A week later, after several operations, Heydrich lapsed into a coma, likely brought on by sepsis. He died early the next morning, June 4, 1942. Heyrdich, an SS-Obergruppenfuhrer who was the head of Germany’s security services and was the acting Reichsprotecktor of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, was the highest-ranking Nazi official to be assassinated during the war. While the event has been featured in past films, a new film, simply titled Anthropoid, has sought to bring an accurate interpretation of the assassination to modern audiences.
Anthropoid was directed by Sean Ellis, a British director whose best-known efforts include the short film Cashback and the crime film Metro Manila. Produced on the relatively low budget of $9 million, the most notable star of the film is Cillian Murphy, known his roles in films such as Batman Begins, 28 Days Later, and Inception, who portrays Josef Gabcik. Additionally, Irish actor Jamie Dornan plays Jan Kubis and Czech actress Anna Geislerova plays Lenka Fafkova, another member of the resistance. Thanks to the preservation of numerous areas in Prague, Ellis was able to film Anthropoid in many city districts and locales that in large part have not changed since the events of the film in 1941-1942.
The real-life Operation Anthropoid was set in motion on December 28, 1941, when several parachutists, including Gabcik and Kubis, jumped from a RAF Halifax bomber and landed near the village of Nehvidzy to the east of Prague. Equipped with small arms and several grenades and small explosives, the team explored several possible methods of assassinating Heydrich for several months, none of which turned out to be practical. However, in April 1942, Heydrich moved his quarters from Prague Castle to a Chateau in Panenske Brezany, which meant that his driver would have to alter his route to Heydrich’s office. The sharp corner was chosen by the resistance as their ambush point, and on May 27, 1942, they carried out their attempt on Heydrich’s life. Later that day, a civil state of emergency was declared, and posters began to circulate in Prague demanding that the perpetrators for the act be caught. The assassins hid successfully for several days, occasionally moving to more secure locations. The seven men eventually ended up taking refuge in the Orthodox Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Unfortunately, Karel Curda, a member of the group who was captured by the Gestapo not long after the group attempted to kill Heydrich, betrayed the names and contacts of the group to the Germans for a bounty. The Gestapo subsequently tortured several members of the Moravec family, who had sheltered the parachutists for months before they moved to the church. After obtaining the group’s location, on June 18, 1942 several reserve units were ordered to secure the area surrounding the church, then take it by force. A firefight between several Czechs on guard and the Germans ensued and lasted for fourteen hours before they were finally overwhelmed and either killed or committed suicide to prevent from being captured. The remaining Czechs, hidden in the church’s crypt, were discovered and committed suicide after exhausting their ammunition. The seven Czech soldiers had killed fourteen German soldiers and wounded numerous others before they were finally killed. The Germans, not satisfied with the deaths of all of those involved in the plot, carried out reprisals on numerous Czech towns, including most famously the town of Lidice, whose population of 1200 was either killed or deported, and the town completely razed to the ground. Ultimately, 13,000 Czechs were arrested and 5,000 killed as reprisal for the death of Heydrich.
While many contemporary films at times take quite liberal use of artistic license when portraying historical events, this is most certainly not the case with Anthropoid. Zdenek Spitalnik, a member of Prague’s Military History Institute, functioned as a historical advisor on the film. His involvement, coupled with the producer’s and director’s apparent desires to adhere closely to the actual events, are plainly evident. The end result is very true to the actual events of the assassination attempt. While not every detail can possibly be covered in a two hour film, Anthropoid has succeeded in provided an accurate representation of the operation. Prior to seeing the film, I must confess that I had not previously heard of it. I was pleasantly surprised with this European film, and would recommend this well-crafted historical thriller to those looking for a refreshing historical film.
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3. Rothman, Lily. "Anthropoid Historical Adviser on Why the True Story Matters."Time. Time, 12 Aug. 2016. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.
4. Lisciotto, Carmelo. "The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich! Http://www.HolocaustResearchProject.org." The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich! Http://www.HolocaustResearchProject.org. H.E.A.R.T., 2013. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.
 http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/anthropoid/ 10/3/16
 http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/anthropoid/ 10/3/16