Review: Agonizing ‘Anthropoid’ details carnage of war

This brutal WWII story tells the story of two Czech soldiers who set out to assassinate Hitler’s third in charge

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Somewhere in “Anthropoid” there’s a message about the brutality and carnage of war, but it’s buried beneath so much brutality and carnage that it never rises to the surface.

What director Sean Ellis’ startlingly intense WWII thriller does do effectively is make you feel the cold dread of death. In its chaotic, claustrophobic, bullet-riddled climax, which is so jarring you can practically smell the gun smoke wafting off the screen, “Anthropoid” puts viewers smack in the middle of a Nazi standoff where hope doesn’t stand a chance, and neither do your senses. Take a date to this movie if you want it to be your last.

Prior to that barbaric finish, “Anthropoid” starts sloooow, as a pair of Czech soldiers parachute into their occupied homeland with a mission to kill Reinhard Heydrich, Hitler’s third in charge, who is known as “The Butcher of Prague.” As Josef (a brooding Cillian Murphy) and Jan (“50 Shades of Grey’s” Jamie Dornan, less wooden than usual) piece together their plan, they’re nearly found out in a series of predictable close calls, and they manage to fall for a couple of dames (Charlotte Le Bon and Anna Geislerova).

Things are pretty dour for the first hour or so. Then Ellis (who wrote the screenplay with Anthony Frewin) gets to the meat of the story, including his intricately detailed assassination sequence and its harrowing aftermath, which leaves more than a few scars.

“Anthropoid” is like a history lesson as taught by Quentin Tarantino. A post-script details the aftermath of the movie’s action, which seems to underscore the point that war is hell. To that point, so is “Anthropoid.”

agraham@detroitnews.com

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‘Anthropoid’

GRADE: C

Rated R: violence and some disturbing images

Running time: 120 minutes