Thursday, August 18, 2016

Anthropoid [2016]

MPAA (R)  Aktuálně (2 Stars)  ČervenýKoberec (3 1/2 Stars)  ChiTrib/WashPost (4 Stars) (2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CSFD listing*

Aktuálně.cz (M. Svoboda) review*
Červený (Tereza Šedivá) review*
Česká (M. Vacková) review* (M. Spáčilová) review* (M. Kabát) review* (D. Křivánková) review*

ChiTrib/WashPost (C. Kompanek) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (N. D'Angelo) review

Anthropoid [2014] [IMDb] [CSFD]* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Sean Ellis [IMDb] along with Anthony Frewin [IMDb]) tells the story of the Czechoslovak WW II operation code-named "Anthropoid" [en.wikip] [cs.wikip]*(meaning similar-to but less-than-human) to assassinate then Nazi "Reichsprotektor" of occupied Bohemia and Moravia Reinhardt Heydrich [en.wikip] [cz.wikip]*[de.wikip]*.

The operation had been ordered by the Czechoslovak government in exile in Britain in good part "to prove" to their British hosts that Czechoslovakia was _still_ "willing to fight" Nazi tyranny, something rather rich / ironic because (1) Britain's previous Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was instrumental in _handing-over_ Czechoslovakia _on a plate_ to the Nazis in a vain / deluded attempt of averting war (arguably racially insulting the Czechoslovaks in the process: "This is all about a people we do not even know..."), and (2) despite this Czechoslovak as well as Polish pilots _helped save Britain_ two years later during the Battle of Britain [cs.wikip]*[cs.wikip-2]* when Britain was by then furiously making the planes to send-up to confront the Luftwaffe attacking Britain by that time but didn't have enough trained pilots to fly them.

In any case, the Czechoslovak government in exile ordered agents Jan Kubiš [cs.wikip]* (played in the film by Jamie Dornan) and Josef Gabčík [cs.wikip]* (played in the film by Cillian Murphy) to be parachuted into their Nazi occupied homeland to assassinate quite beastly Nazi governor (er "Reichsprotektor") of the country... hence the name for the operation "Anthropoid" (which means "similar-to but less-than-human"). 

The dangers of carrying-out the operation and its aftermath are presented quite faithfully in the film.  The Nazis, particularly under Reinhardt Heydrich, had largely decimated the Czech Resistance up to that point.  In his first days as "Reichsprotektor of Bohemia an Moravia", Heydrich had apparently ordered the summary execution of the Czech officers (several hundred in number) still detained as POWs from the initial over-running of the country (a massacre not unlike the infamous massacre of Polish Officers ordered by the NKVD in Katyń [en.wikip] [pl.wikip]*.  Captured resistance members were routinely tortured for their information and then shot after they were done.  A characteristic of the Czech resistance became being equipped with cyanide pills to take when capture was imminent so as to at least not reveal further information to the enemy.  A real fear expressed by the Czech resistance on the ground (and expressed quite poignantly in the film) was that an assassination attempt on Heydrich could endanger the very existence of the Czech people.  

Then, when the assassination was carried out, the reprisals _were_ horrific.  My own parents, Czech, lived as children in Nazi Occupied Prague at the time. BOTH had horrific stories to tell (I was convinced as a child that my life would _never be_ nearly as dramatic as theirs had been) about the "Heydrichiada" [cs.wikip]* (translated as "The Heydrich Affair", or more literally and certainly in our time _more evocatively_ as "The Heydrich Games") that followed his death: For days, no Czech in his/her right mind dared to go onto the streets.  The SS would just count-off ten people that they encountered and shoot the 10th one.  TRULY for a week or two after the attempt on Heydrich's life, life in Prague was like that of The Purge [2013] (with the SS given essentially a license to kill at will).  Entire sections of Prague were searched block by block, house by house.  My mom's family _happened to have someone over_ at the time WHO FORGOT HER ID-PAPERS at her home.  The SS had even come into the building where my mother's family lived, though apparently / luckily they left before making it to their apartment.  PEOPLE AND THEIR ENTIRE FAMILIES WERE SHOT IF SOMEONE AMONG THEM DIDN'T HAVE THEIR PAPERS WITH THEM.

In the end, according to the film at hand, some 5,000 Czechs were shot in reprisal for Heydrich's assassination, including, of course the massacre of all the men (by firing squad) and children (by gas), the women sent to forced labor camps (and told that their children were "sent to the Reich for adoption") of an entire _utterly random_ town, Lidice [en.wikip] [cs.wikip]*, condemned for its "involvement" in the assassination plot (it had none).

The final shoot-out [cs.wikip]*, dramatized in the film, between the Czechoslovak parachutists who had been sent to Prague to carry-out the assassination, and the SS, REALLY DID HAPPEN, and I MYSELF HAVE BEEN TO THE CHURCH - the Byzantine Rite Catholic Church of Cyril and Methodius [cs.wikip]* (who had fascinatingly been the APOSTLES TO THE SLAVS) - where it took place.

All in all, this was an excellent film.  And some of the actors / actresses, notably Aňa Geislerová [IMDb] [CSFD]*, several of whose films [1] [2] I have previously reviewed here) even played in this BRITISH, FRENCH and CZECH coproduction.  And it tells a story worth telling --Reinhardt Heydrich [en.wikip] [cz.wikip]*[de.wikip]*, the "Butcher of Prague", had been the #3 man in the Nazi heirarchy, and was the highest ranking Nazi to die in the War.  Further, despite the many, many Czech casualties following his assassination, _we_ Czechoslovaks GOT OUR GUY and remarkably _only him_, not his wife, not his kids, not even his guard.  WE GOT _HIM_.   And yes, despite the horrific costs that followed, there's something quite impressive about that.

As such, excellent and often deeply moving WW II film.

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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