'Anthropoid' electrifying account of Czech resistance mission

Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune (TNS)
  • 4 stars out of 4

In "Anthropoid," Sean Ellis' electrifying account of the Czech resistance against the Nazi occupation, freedom fighters Josef (Jamie Dornan) and Jan (Cillian Murphy) head a top-secret mission to kill the nation's powerful and widely feared dictator, SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich.
As Czech members of a task force parachuted in by the British, they work with the Prague underground to orchestrate the assassination. The film's tone is somber, with the assassins and their secretive contacts on the ground torn between courage and crippling anxiety. Fighting to preserve their own lives as well as their countrymen, they spend weeks trying to escape detection, working with scarce intelligence and scant equipment.
The mission becomes more troubling as it grows likely that the Nazis will respond to their leader's murder by killing thousands of innocents in retaliation. The explosion of that collateral damage fills the film's taut third act with horrific violence. The urgent scenes of attack and counterattack are gruesome, their intensity moving the story beyond a dramatization of a pivotal historical moment. Watching this vicious David and Goliath battle is a reminder of humanity's limitless capacity for destruction.

4 out of 4 stars
Rated: R for violence and disturbing images. In English and German.

Cillian Murphy, left, and Jamie Dornan star in "Anthropoid." The film opens Friday at Small Star Art House.