Sitting in the cosy Screen 3 of the York Picturehouse, I saw a film from which I didn’t expect much. As we filed out of the Screen at the end, I reflected on what I feel is the best film I have seen in the cinema this year.
Anthropoid has a slow-burn quality, much like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. A wartime thriller about the assassination attempt of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi party’s 3rd-in-command, the story is set in Czechoslovakia where Heydrich is posted. At first I didn’t like the somewhat shaky camera style, and I didn’t feel like there was any pace to the film. Around fifteen minutes in I really started to sit up and pay attention. Once the details of ‘Operation Anthropoid’ started to be revealed, I stopped staring so much at Jamie Dornan’s face and started listening to the story.
The film has quite a minimalist feel. Music was used sparingly, sad moments were not dwelt on, and visual storytelling was preferred to verbal. The effect of this was a dialled-up level of drama and suspense in the more pivotal scenes of the film. Nothing was overdone. The romantic subplots were deftly told, not lingering on the moments between budding lovers but cutting away early. There were just brief, stolen moments, always kept under wraps and never distracting from the mission at hand. It de-romanticised the siege mentality which these people had to have to cope. For the Operation they had to carry out must have felt like a suicide mission.
There were a number of moments which left me shaking my head at the vulgarity of war and the blasé Nazi attitudes to life. Surprisingly, the film garnered only a 15+ rating, which when watching some of the rawer scenes feels a bit low. Yet the violence was in keeping with the tone of the film. There was no shying away from depicting reality as it is.
Mostly, though, I was just in awe of Cillian Murphy’s performance. Every emotion he seemed to be able to convey without saying a word. Considering he played a man whose emotions seemed almost always in control, it makes the feat all the more impressive. His performance really drove the film up in my estimation, as it gave it a more personal dimension than if I hadn’t felt the character’s emotions. Considering the film is based on true events, it makes it that much harder-hitting.
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