“Anthropoid” is the obscure title of a new thriller starring Jamie “Fifty Shades of Grey” Dornan and Cillian Murphy as soldiers who try and assassinate SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich. In real life their operation was called Operation Anthropoid, but in reel life the title sounds like a sci fi story. Will the title resonate with anyone who isn’t a World War II aficionado?
Set in 1942 Dornan and Murphy play Czechoslovakian operatives Jan Kubiš and Josef Gabčík who return to Nazi-occupied Prague to kill Heydrich, one of the main architects of the Holocaust. The pair hide out with a family, where the fetching daughter Marie (Charlotte Le Bon) catches Jan’s eye, while her feisty friend Lenka (Anna Geislerová) bonds with Josef personally and in sympathy with his dangerous mission. Their best laid plans are turned upside down, and pushed ahead a few days, when Heydrich’s schedule changes. Rushed, the plan (MILD SPOILER) does not quite go as planned and the men and their compatriots are forced to go into hiding in the basement of a local church as the Nazis mount a massive manhunt.
Much of “Anthropoid” is spent with Jan and Josef as they make their way to Prague and plan the assassination. Unfortunately director Sean Ellis’s attempts to personalize the heroic tale fall flat, with good actors doing bad accents and a stultifying pace that sucks much of the excitement out of what should have been a volatile, dramatic situation. It’s only after the assassination attempt that the character work of the first hour pays off. It’s a shame Ellis couldn’t spread the story’s intensity around a little more evenly.