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Wednesday, Aug 10 2016

If anyone's forgotten what a country looks like after a fascist rises to power, Anthropoid will be a welcome reminder. This World War II film is set in Prague after the Nazis have taken control of what was then Czechoslovakia. Two members of the Czech resistance (Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy) parachute back into the country from England with orders to carry out "Operation Anthropoid": the assassination of SS General Reinhard Heydrich. (Heydrich was not only in charge of the city but also the man who engineered the local implementation of the Holocaust.) This fact immediately aligns our sympathies with the protagonists, but the director takes a modest approach to this wartime story of espionage, focusing on the subtle details — faces and interiors — without grasping for large-scale melodrama. The cinematography communicates an elegiac tone, and the lighting is rich in reds and amber, much like De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. Dornan and Murphy are evenly matched as comrades in arms: The former is never not smoldering; the latter always casts a rational chill. We see their mutual sense of trust in a time of paranoia, their shared patriotism, and the effort it takes to manufacture courage. But heroism isn't the endgame. They're willing to sacrifice their individual pursuits of happiness for the greater good. This is an un-American film in all the right ways.



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