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‘Anthropoid’ Review: Cillian Murphy Can’t Save Weak WWII Epic

Thriller about an operation to destroy architects of the Third Reich could not be duller

Of all the World War II movies about the plots to kill the architects of the Third Reich, Anthropoid is guilty of being the dullest. And there’s really no excuse for it. Operation Anthropoid was the real name of the mission in which the Czechoslovakian resistance sought out Reinhard Heydrich, Hitler’s third-in-command, to perform the symbolic gesture of killing the rat bastard. The two paratroopers picked for the job are the oddly impassive Jan Kubiš (Jamie Dornan, nowhere near as sadistic as he was to poor Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey) and the gung-ho Jozef Gabčík (Cillian Murphy). Neither actor has the right Czech accent.

No sooner do these freedom fighters parachute into Nazi-occupied territory near Prague in 1942 then they meet up with Jan Zelenka (the always welcome Toby Jones), the head of the local resistance. Plans are made and then remade. Your eyes could cross from all the planning.

British director Sean Ellis (Cashback), who wrote the script with former Stanley Kubrick assistant Anthony Frewin, keeps delaying the action. His attempt to compensate with shaky, handheld cameras is a non-starter, and when the assassination finally comes, it feels anticlimactic. The most exciting scene in the movie is the final shootout at Karel Boromjeksky Church, where freedom fighters face off against a horde of Nazis soldiers. It’s here, and only here, that the film honors the heroism it had been tasked to depict. In the aftermath, when the Germans executed thousands of Czechs in retaliation, questions are raised about whether ridding the world of one powerful Nazi was worth such great human loss. But Anthropoid skips over that core issue, just as it reduces a riveting and resonant piece of history to moral muddle and monotonous filmmaking. Talk about an opportunity missed.

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