With such an extraordinary tale of historical derring-do as its source, writer/director Sean Ellis’s Anthropoid certainly has all the ingredients for an engrossing thriller – so why does it all seem so bloodless?
After some initial excitement, the film settles into a fairly sluggish pace as the cast gathers round tables in dimly lit rooms and talk the plot in their best pan-European accents. Dornan and Murphy are fine as the leads, but save for some vague notion of patriotism, we never really get a sense of what’s driving them to take part in this near-suicidal endeavour.
Two female love interests are introduced to give the audience an emotional anchor, but the relationships are underdeveloped and unconvincing – in the end, everyone feels too thinly drawn for us to become emotionally involved in their fate. You get the impression Ellis was so careful to treat the story and its heroes with due reverence he forgot to inject any drama into proceedings.
It’s during the assassination attempt at the film’s centre that it finally kicks into gear. It’s such a well-executed and genuinely nail-biting sequence you wonder why the earlier scenes weren’t created with the same visual panache and knack for suspense.
Stakes raised, the second half of Anthropoid – in which motives are questioned, allegiances are tested and morality is pushed to the fore – offers up a more substantial and gripping filmic experience. There are some truly distressing scenes of Nazi brutality and torture that are hard to watch – all the more affecting when you know how close to the truth they actually are.
Its climactic cathedral shootout is worthy of a classic actioner, although it suffers from the same disposable death-wish infantry that have populated World War II films since the 1940s; charging heedlessly into machine gun fire as if they’ve never even had basic military training. There’s also an over-reliance on handheld shaky cam that’s presumably meant to convey a documentary feel but feels incongruous and disorientating.
Solidly made but never really giving us a reason to care, It’s unlikely Anthropid will go down in the canon of great Second World War films – a shame considering that the fascinating true story behind it deserves to be more widely known.
|What||Anthropoid film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
09 Sep 16 – 09 Nov 16, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|