Aug 22, 2016

One of the best ever.

Image courtesy of IMDb.


Grade: B+

Director: Sean Ellis (The Broken)

Screenplay: Ellis, Anthony Frewin (Color Me Kubrick)

Cast: Jamie Dornan (Shades of Grey), Cillian Murphy (In the Heart of the Sea)

Rating: R

Runtime: 2 hrs

by John DeSando

“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.” Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

If you delight in the fantasy violence of summer blockbusters, you will lose any romantic notions about it when you see the real deal in Anthropoid, a based-on-actual-events biography about seven WWII resistance fighters who parachute into Nazi-held Czechoslovakia. Their job: assassinate the third highest ranking officer of the Reich, Reinhard Heydrich (Detlef Bothe), the Butcher of Prague.

As in all dictatorships, never a safe moment exists, and writer-director Sean Ellis, along with writer Anthony Frewin, emphasizes both the bravery of the fighters and the brutality of the Nazis in a quagmire of deceit and fear. No sympathy for any of occupiers but much to admire in the freedom fighters, the best examples of the “valiant” Caesar mentions in the above quote.

The two lead fighters, Jan (Jamie Dornan) and Josef (Cillian Murphy), crystallize the film’s impressive depiction of understated bravery and humanity: Both take life-threatening chances -- Jan has realistic moments of cowardice and bravery while Josef is steadfast. Both fall in love in mature circumstances that brook little romance.

If there are any faults in Anthropoid, one would be the overly-long fight scene in the church hideout. After a few minutes, one can get the idea of the mayhem that lasted in reality about 6 hours. However, this scene certainly shows the valor of the fighters against the relentless Nazi machine.

In the end, Anthropoid is the story of heroism crucified by almost unstoppable, and certainly unfathomable, evil. Although we are buoyed up by any resistance victory, that joy is seriously tempered by the triumph of the enemy’s will.

As the title suggests, subhuman Nazi anthropoids rule the landscape: in one instance, they bring in the severed head of a resistance sympathizer to torture her son. Yet, real loving, hurting humans try to survive the horror. Anthropoid makes Planet of the Apes look like The Sound of Music. 

After Army of Shadows, Anthropoid ranks as one of the best resistance stories in film history.

“Satan understands the power of men and women united in righteousness.” Sheri L. Dew

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at