An intensely gripping, dramatic gem...

Please note the review below may contain minor spoilers - I've done my best to keep them to a minimum.

After starting his career creating one of my personal favourite films - Cashback - in his feature film debut, British director Sean Ellis returns to the big screen with his latest work and a wholly different kind of creation with World War II spy drama Anthropoid.

Itís 1941 and through the initial signing of the ĎMunich Agreement' a few years earlier, Germany has now managed to secure the whole of Czechoslovakia. But during the dead of night, a team of Czech-born, yet British-trained paratroopers covertly infiltrate their Nazi-occupied homeland, landing in the countryside just outside of Prague.

Whilst both Josef (Cillian Murphy) and Jan (Jamie Dornan) are successful in their descent onto ground, their once peaceful home is no longer as they remember it, but hopefully the success of their mission can change all of that.

After a near perilous run in with their own turncoat countrymen, the two spies successfully infiltrate Prague and attempt to rendezvous with their assigned contact, only to find him long gone - a casualty of the Nazi machine - and are slowly coming to terms with the reality of the Czech resistance now being a mere shell, decimated by the enemy.

Thankfully their presence has not gone unnoticed by its remnants, as they are ushered into a clandestine meeting and their mission - Operation Anthropoid - becomes apparent; the assassination of SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the current Reichís third in command and architect of the Final Solution.

As the credits rolled on Anthropoid I was left shook, thinking back upon a journey that had ramped up into an emotional final act of mayhem, wholly succeeding in its mission of showcasing our own history; a far cry from the Sean Ellis - who also co-wrote Anthropoid - with his time-stopping yet equally splendid quasi sci-fi drama Cashback.

Itís really is quite amazing how with just a small budget of around 9 million dollars, the filmmakers have managed to create such an authentic feeling depiction in Anthropoid, even meticulously replicating entire to scale sets and shooting at the actual locations where the now historical events took place - not to mention attracting some notable names. This combines with the scripts overt perception deprivation of our characters, who like the audience are left completely in the dark about the larger picture afoot beyond their own orders, and rightly feeling their plight is a mere one way suicide mission that will surely bring about disastrous consequences for their people. Itís such smart decision making by Sean Ellis and Anthony Frewin, creating a sense of claustrophobia as the two try and establish a foothold in Prague with their head on a constant swivel and any strange noise the possible burgeoning of an untimely death.

Anthropoid - (Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Toby Jones, Charlotte Le Bon, Harry Lloyd, Sam Keeley and Anna GeislerovŠ)

The two lead performances exemplify this situation with Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan each bringing differing perspectives and shortcomings to the situation they find themselves in - one a seemingly hardened soldier and the other dreading his reality and what it entails. This is made all the worse when given a glimmer of hope by faux relationships turned reality, in the romantic entanglements the pair establish with Marie (Charlotte Le Bon) and Lenka (Anna GeislerovŠ) who also shine in their performances.

Likewise the amount of tension built up as the team begin their day of preparing to assassinate Heydrich (Detlef Bothe) is pure edge of your seat stuff, and will have you gripped throughout, only to then make one final push in its conclusion that was reminiscent of the final scene in Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds - except this time historically accurate. Itís undoubted that Anthropoid will eventually be followed up by a far more Hollywood-ised adaption of its material - and will no doubt shed its realism and accuracy in that endeavour - itís just a shame then that Anthropoid, a much deserved and fantastic depiction, received such a small theatrical release - but thankfully the home release means we can now partake in this gem.

Special Features

Making Of - This is truly the meat of Anthropoids special features, a 30 minute look behind the scenes that really delves into the task of bringing Anthropoid to the big screen. From interview with the cast, the history of the Czech people and all the set work - itís a true must-watch if you enjoyed the movie.

Shot Comparisons - Three short vignettes of the opening, assassination and cathedral scenes; showing side-by-side comparisons of the storyboard shots - which used action figures in picture perfect poses - against the actual end film. It really highlights the vision of director Sean Ellis and how close his ideas converged into the reality we see on screen.

I feel the only thing missing within Anthropoid is any kind of vocal commentary, it would have been a delight to hear both Sean Ellis and Anthony Frewin take us through each scene as there is sure to be a ton of minutiae that we donít perceive upon initially viewing.

If youíre a fan of gripping and intense films then Anthropoid is a must watch, even if you arenít a history buff. With excellent filmmaking and a sense of realism that easily dwarfs the measly budget Anthropoid successfully hides behind, creating one of the best spy thrillers to grace our screens in quite a while.

Anthropoid may have only received a very limited theatrical release - leading many to miss this dramatic gem - but now thereís no excuse, it behooves you to pick up the home release and Iím truly looking forward to what filmmaker Sean Ellis sets his hand to next

A DVD review copy of Anthropoid was provided by the distributor for review purposes.

  • Review by
    David Robinson

    Twitter: @5ypher

    Posted on
    28th January 2017

  • 4 Out of 5 Stars
  • Lack of commentary

  • Gripping & intense

    Meticulous accuracy

    Great performances

    Sean Ellis on form

Film Info

Anthropoid Anthropoid
Rating: 15
Release Date: 16th January
Runtime: 2 hrs
Director: Sean Ellis
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Toby Jones, Charlotte Le Bon, Harry Lloyd, Sam Keeley & Anna GeislerovŠ

  • Operation Daybreak
  • Allied
  • Valkyrie

No, contains scenes of death, torture and violence.

In the opening parachute scene, the team blanketed an entire woodland with fake paper snow in order to create an effect of winter.

Petschek Palace was a bank that was converted to Gestapo headquarters during the war. Many people of the Czech resistance were tortured there and today the basement remains a museum to their memory. The torture scene of Ata Moravec was filmed in the same basement room where it actually took place.

Anthropoid means "resembling a human being in form".

None of the German dialog was intentionally subtitled, to give the viewer the effect of a foreign power.

In real life. one of the men responsible for training the Anthropoid assassins was the late Christopher Lee, who worked for British intelligence during World War II.