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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

ANTHROPOID (2016)

Fact-based WWII Czech resistance story on the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, chief administrator of the Nazi occupation, is well handled, but too Standard Issue.* The killing of SS General Heydrich, third in the Reich chain of command, was certain to cause major reprisals, but too important to pass on. The film largely follows two (out of a handful of) Czech & Slovakian agents (Cillian Murphy; Jamie Dornan) on assignment from London who parachute back in to bolster the decimated local resistance units. A fascinating, exciting war story, but writer/director Sean Ellis makes it hard to get a handle on characters & action by leaning too heavily on hand-held close-ups & busy editing (it also robs the technique of effect when he finds better use for it later); while uncomfortable dips into melodrama with a pair of romances and ‘rhymed’ plot elements might have worked in a different sort of film. A shame since much of this true, tragic history is handsomely caught, as if on the run. Of the leads, Jamie Dornan brings something less than 50 shades of personality with him (he’s easily outflanked by heroic confederates with far less screen time), while the fortunate Mr. Murphy was born with a camera-ready face just waiting to take the light.

DOUBLE-BILL: *You’d hardly accuse Fritz Lang of anything Standard Issue in his version of the same story. Made soon after events as HANGMEN ALSO DIE!/’43 (Bertolt Brecht’s sole Hollywood credit), the tone goes a bit bizarre at times and the acting uneven, but it builds relentlessly. On a smaller scale, Douglas Sirk gives a different side of the same story in HITLER’S MADMAN/’43.

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