It is all too easy to ignore atrocities that are occurring in other parts of the world. Awful things are happening right now, in Turkey and Syria and Lebanon and dozens of other countries. We rarely hear about them in our media and at least for me, it is all too easy to brush off the few stories that I do see as being just another bad thing that happened in an unstable part of the world, and then go on with my day.
Anthropoid is a story of one of those bad things in an unstable part of the world, and seeing the events on screen made me feel horribly insensitive about brushing anything off just because it happened somewhere else. Set in Czechoslovakia, the movie opens just after Great Britain, France and Italy stood by and watched Hitler’s Germany assimilate the Czechs, the Slovaks, and everyone else who had the misfortune of living next to those German assholes. Of course, once they took control, Hitler and crew then started rounding up and murdering people by the thousands. Overseeing the operation was Hitler’s third in command, Reinhard Heydrich. Operation Anthropoid was the displaced Czechoslovakian government’s response to the occupation: an assassination attempt on Heydrich.
Anthropoid methodically takes us through the operation from incursion to aftermath. None of it is enjoyable in the least. That is not in any way a criticism of the movie. This is a tale told well and told with respect. It is a tense affair from beginning to end, and we become sufficiently familiar with the resistance group to feel the loss every time one of them is taken down by the Nazis. There are a lot of losses in Anthropoid and taken together they are overwhelming.
There are few illusions to be found among the resistance about walking away after the mission is over. That may be the most disheartening part of the whole affair. Everyone involved knows that assassinating Heydrich will not win the war; rather, it is a kick to the hornet’s nest that will likely escalate Germany’s killing spree. But it is all they can do and so they proceed. The resistance members’ bravery in the face of there being no winning outcome is well-portrayed. There are several memorable moments along those lines, including a nicely-played theme as one of our heroes learns to cope with the terror that all soldiers must experience.
Do not go into Anthropoid expecting to be entertained, as you will not be. And that’s okay. As a movie, Anthropoid is solid but not spectacular, but as a lesson in humility and awareness, Anthropoid is important and deserves to be watched. I am glad I saw it.