Submitted by Charlie on Fri 12 Aug 2016 - 17:55

Anthropoid

"Yeah, it's a good idea, Homer, but they've already made some movies about World War II..." - Troy McClure

Top Line: Anthropoid is an A+ WWII spy/action movie. It is Serious with a cap S, but it's also smart, so things don't get dull. The gun fights, the spy tradecraft, the locations, the emotions, a metric ton of research and homework went into this movie and it shines because of it. It is the opposite of a popcorn muncher, but it is a terrific film. 

Who (probably) should see this movie: Czechs and people who want to see a WWII movie done right. 

Who (probably) should not see this movie: Cranky ass film critics, apparently. 

Box Score:

Runtime - 2h:0m - Doesn't waste any time. Subplots could've easily bloated this to 2h:40m, but they resisted. Good for them.

Actual Start - Showtime + 22 Minutes - Ugh. See longer rant about this at the bottom.

Friday Morning Demographics: About ten people, two old ladies, and a bunch of other lone dudes like me. Real Friday morning crowd. 

Anything After the End Credits: Nope.
MPAA - PG-13 - "Rated R for violence and some disturbing images"

What It's Got: There's a realistic but not gory amount of blood, a couple of tough interrogation scenes, it's a real R.

Should Be Rated: PG-14
Three Stars:
  1. Cillian Murphy: Tommy Shelby is fantastic as an ultra-dedicated man who is nevertheless still a real person underneath. 
  2. Anna Geislerová: A resistance member who is every bit Murphy's equal. Great role.
  3. The rest of the cast, pretty much: Even the small roles are knocked out of the park. Everyone from the old guy handler to the violin playing kid is excellent.
Worth Seeing In Theater (Baseline: 2):
  •  +2 Great movie.
  •  +2 Intense movie, so it's nice to watch it distraction free. Paying close attention is rewarding as there are multiple times where glances are important.

Final Score: 6

Worth Seeing Eventually (Baseline: 5):
  • +5 See above. If there was any justice to the Oscars, this movie would be nominated for a lot of them.

Final Score: 10

 
Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

Final Score: 6

IMDb Sez:

Director:

  • Sean Ellis: This is his fourth time in the big chair. His first was the fun (and Skinemax level nude) Cashback, and I haven't seen the other two, though Metro Manila was supposed to be good.

Writer:

  • Sean Ellis: Also writes his movies. Apparently he was working on this one for fifteen years.
  • Anthony Frewin: Only his second feature writing credit, and he apparently used to be Stanley Kubrick's assistant.

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics: 55% Top Critics: 52% Audience: 80%

Notes:

  • I often disagree with the critic's consensus, but I'm rarely surprised by the scores. Here I'm shocked. Those numbers are insulting to this movie. Any critic who's spent any time bitching about sequels, franchises, and the CGI superhero takeover of the box office should be thrilled with this film. It's actual adult entertainment that rewards you for paying close attention.
  • I did not recognize Viserys from Game of Thrones. He's great too.
  • It's usually a very bad sign when you see "Based on Actual Events" or "Based on a True Story" or "Inspired by Real Events" in front of a movie. Most such things take one or two interesting, real life characters or events and then clone a generic drama around them. Anthropoid is a shining example of how to do a "true story" movie. It recounts public facts as faithfully as possible and leaves its fictionalizing to private moments that flesh out the characters. More like this, please.
  • There are a whole slew of great scenes: the nightclub, the veterinarian, even just walking down the street is done with intensity.
  • The ending is outstanding.
  • The guy from 50 Shades of Contract Negotiation actually can act when given something better to do than bite toast.
  • Movie start time rant: I made my peace with the six-trailer standard a while ago. It was annoying that the film often didn't start until 15 minutes or more after the listed time, but trailers are usually fun so okay, why not? Now, the damned trailers didn't even start until 6 minutes past the listed start time AND there was a soda ad *after* the trailers so that we didn't get started until 22 minutes after showtime. That's ridiculous and annoying, especially when half the ads are for the theater chain itself talking about how it wants to "enhance my experience". How about letting me experience the movie I paid to see?

Bottom Line: Anthropoid is a meticulously constructed WWII spy story about the real life heroes who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, who stood out as a monster even among the Nazi high command. We start with two Czechoslovakian nationals parachuted into a forest, and things go from there. It becomes very clear very quickly that the movie made a deliberate choice to stay with the resistance fighters and not have some famous actor play Heydrich as a smoothly evil villain. If you want to see that, watch HBO's Conspiracy from 2001, where Kenneth Branagh does exactly that.

Instead, we stick with the good guys through to the very end, and it's by far the right choice. Life in occupied Prague was no picnic, and as often as the Nazis are used as movie bad guys, you don't often see the Gestapo portrayed for what they were: a bunch of really crude thugs. The film never lets the audience forget the fear they instilled in life. When our heroes walk down the street, the movie is careful to show us that they are always watching, always seeing if they're being followed. Meetings have to be swift and quiet. Even something as innocuous as putting on lipstick can potentially be a fatal mistake.

What makes all of that vastly more engaging and immersive than most WWII shoot 'em ups is the details. The gunfights are a lot like real gunfights: most bullets miss (even pistols from close range), guns jam, and guys have to actually, you know, reload. Messages have to be decrypted by hand. Makeshift darkrooms have to be constructed for developing film. The tradecraft is excellent, and it's apparent right from the start that Ellis and his crew have seriously done their homework. Even the torture and interrogation scenes are spot on.

What this movie is not - and this, too, is to its credit - is formulaic. Yes, it's a World War II movie, and there have been a lot of those. Yes, it's a spy movie, and there have been a lot of those. Hell, there have even been multiple movies about this specific assassination. What makes Anthropoid so good is that it picks its characters and shows them as real, ordinary people caught in a very awful time. Yes, many of them are scared, but they're brave as hell, too. Yes, they get tired and annoyed and frustrated with each other, but never in the "ooh, that guy's gonna turn on them in Act 3" way. Yes, they struggle with killing, because that's what most people do.

All told, Anthropoid is a very un-Hollywood WWII movie, and that's what makes it so good.

 

 

Movies Deemed Commercially and Demographically Similar Enough to Merit Trailers Before Anthropoid:

- Equity - Did you know that women can be evil banksters too? Anna Gunn and James Purefoy look like they're enjoying the taste of all that scenery, though. They're good enough to maybe save this, but it looks pretty bad.

- Bleed - Boxer gets crippled, overcomes it. Looks reasonably well done, but definitely suffers from Whole Movie in the Trailer syndrome.

- The Birth of a Nation - Yes! 10,000x Yes! The Nat Turner movie that steals D.W. Griffith's title is coming . . . and it's gonna be in theaters right as Donald Trump's going down in flames in October. The right wing freakout is going to be more delicious than Scott Tenorman's tears. I can't wait.

- American Pastoral - This was a Philip Roth novel, and the trailer contains basically no dialogue, only a breathy rendition of "Mad World", so you know it's artsy and classy as fuck. Meh.

- American Honey - How many chances is Shia LaBeouf gonna get? If he's on the Matthew McConaughey trajectory, he's entering his EDTV phase and won't be in anything decent until about 2026 when everyone will suddenly stop hating him. Boo.

- Denial - Rachel Weisz takes on notorious Holocaust denier David Irving, who's being played by Wormtail from Harry Potter. I vaguely recall when this was going on in the news and wondering what the hell it was about, so even though this looks very Oscarbait-y, it'll probably be watchable. Plus: Tom Wilkinson.