If you needed money on an urgent basis, would you steal from the rich or the poor? The rich, right? It’s a no brainer. It’s Robin Hood’s calling card for good reason, because it works. And yet, when forced to make that decision in the latest big screen version of the legend of Robin Hood, the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) chooses to rob the poor instead. I took it that was intended to show us that the Sheriff is truly evil. But what it really shows us is that he is an idiot.
This Sheriff of Nottingham is so dumb that he has no chance to best Robin Hood or any of his merry men. He is so dumb that he was written out of this wannabe franchise before it even crashed and burned at the box office. Still, Mendelsohn doesn’t let this miserable movie or its bad script constrain him. He gleefully chews enough scenery to let us know that even as this movie is bursting into flames around him, he relishes this chance to play an idiot. He absolutely nails it. Which doesn’t make Robin Hood any more enjoyable, but I have to give Mendelsohn an “A” for effort.
No one else in Robin Hood has even an eighth of Mendelsohn’s desire. Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Eve Hewson and Jamie Dornan must also know that they are part of a dismal film. Nothing about this project could ever have seemed promising. Cliches and plot holes abound. The story makes no sense. The voiceovers are unbearably banal. The whole endeavour was so flat that I had time to wonder what Michael Bay might have made of this, and I concluded he could only have made it better, because at least Bay would have joined Mendelsohn in having some fun with the wretched source material.
Aside from Mendelsohn, everyone else in this film is making an obvious effort to be forgettable. It mostly works. In a year from now, I probably won’t remember anything about Robin Hood. It’s destined to be a footnote at best, remembered only in passing the next time a Robin Hood movie is made (maybe with Robin being female, which is one in a long list of Jay’s good ideas). Until then, try the Disney cartoon if you need a Robin Hood fix, or fall back on the Kevin Costner one if you’re desperate. Because the 2018 Robin Hood is not worth any of your time, or even any of the time of your most idiotic nemesis.
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.