Tag Archives: assassination

Anthropoid – Review

5 May

In 1942, an assassination attempt on one of the Third Reich’s most despicable leaders, Reinhard Heydrich, was undertaken by a group of Czech agents working alongside operative in England. This mission was appropriately called Operation Anthropoid. The implications of this mission helped redefine the Allies’ actions in these stages of Word War II, but even with all that, this isn’t a story that I’ve seen told in a mainstream motion picture. There have been films that have told this story before, so please pardon my ignorance. Sean Ellis’ 2016 film, Anthropoid, is one of these films to tell the story of these often times forgotten Czech heroes. While this is a really solid film, there are some storytelling choices and pacing issues that hold it back from being a real war classic, but it’s certainly one that I’m really glad to have seen.

In 1941, Jozef Gabčik (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubiš (Jamie Dornan), two Czechoslovakian agents, are dropped into Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. Their mission is to meet up with the underground resistance in Prague to ultimately assassinate SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich (Detlef Bothe). They soon meet up with the head of the resistance, Uncle Hajsky (Toby Jones), and begin planning their mission. As time goes on, the two agents begin to immerse themselves in their homeland once again, but their time is soon cut short when it is revealed that Heydrich is being reassigned to another post in France. This forces Jozef and Jan to push their plans forward, but to great risk to themselves and the people of Czechoslovakia.

Movies about World War II are everywhere, so it’s important for film makers to work hard and make their film unique from all the rest. Is Anthropoid a gleaming example of a unique WWII drama? In a sense, yes, and in another sense, no. The major pitfalls of this film happen early on, which is a good thing, but I was really worried for a good portion of the story that nothing special would really come from what I was watching. The first half of Anthropoid has the job of setting up the true to life history of the story while also creating some dramatic fiction to get the viewer more invested in the characters. The problem with that is that the true story is interesting enough, and the embellishments that the film makers added in were distracting and ultimately added to nothing. This is where the core of my worries came because these useless plot points stretched on for way too long. What I’m really trying to say is that the set up wasn’t necessarily overlong, but it was clunky and unfocused. Not every movie needs a romantic relationship… Seriously.

Where Anthropoid really hits is in its second half. With their mission moved forward, the team are forced to make some really tough decisions, which leads to some really harrowing and suspenseful scenes with explosive payoffs that left me feeling exhausted. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s one of those kinds of movies. I felt like I needed to sleep until the next day once these credits started to roll. The tension in this movie is wound so tight that Hitchcock, himself, would have been proud. What helps with this is the authenticity that is clearly present throughout the entirety of this movie. Sean Ellis and his team worked really hard to recreate Prague in the 1940s, which I will get more into later. A lot of the actual locations were used in the shoots, and everything that couldn’t be filmed was meticulously recreated. This is what movies are all about, and this alone saves the movie from the rough start that plagues it.

Now, while the story has a rough start and picks up later one, the design of Anthropoid is on point for the its entirety. This is a great looking movie and that’s one of its main saviors. Like I said, there are sets that are meticulously recreated to be exact replicas of real life locations. The most impressive is a cathedral set where the climax of the film happens. It’s an enormous and very well crafted replica that looks exactly like the real thing. This film is also shot using mostly handheld cameras, but it never gets too out of control. There are movies that exist that use this style to make it seem more real, but they go overboard and move the camera so much you can’t even tell what’s going on. Ellis shows great restraint with the camera and knows exactly when to make it kinetic and when to slow the movements down.

Anthropoid is a solid World War II thriller that tells a story that I knew nothing about. It’s a very well acted and well shot film that’s full of tension, excitement, and visceral drama. The only thing holding it down is the first 35 minutes or so. It’s not that this part of the movie is terrible, but it felt like nothing was really amounting to anything. For anyone interested in the more clandestine side of World War II, I can easily recommend Anthropoid.

Final Grade: B+

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Parkland – Review

10 Aug

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald. Since then, the story has been told in many different films and documentaries that look at the actual even, but also the load of conspiracies that come along with it. The most notable film being Oliver Stone’s JFK. Today, however, I’m going to be looking at a lesser known film about the assassination, Parkland. While this certainly isn’t what you would call an exciting movie, I was pleased to find out that it was very accurate to the real events and is something of a hidden and under appreciated gem.

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Parkland doesn’t so much tell the story of JFK’s assassination, but more so the events that happen in the 24 hours that follow. Dr. Jim Carrico (Zac Efron) and the nurses of Parkland Hospital are forced into the extreme position of being the staff to operate on Kennedy mere minutes after being shot. Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), who recorded the famous footage, along with Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton) rush to get the film developed to see if there could be any clues that were captured. FBI Agent James Hosty (Ron Livingston) has to deal with the fact that Oswald visited his office just days before the assassination. Finally, Robert Oswald (James Badge Dale) has to come to terms with the fact that his life will never be the same and his family may never recover from the actions of Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong).

It really sucks when I watch a movie based on an actual historic event, and then I come to realize that it was all pretty much fictionalized. What would be the point of even watching it if you aren’t going to get at least a semi accurate experience. That’s the main reason why I was so into The Baader Meinhof Complex. It told about an event in history with great detail and accuracy. This is the first film since then that I felt showed a genuine representation of history. So yes, that means that it isn’t pulse pounding suspense or high octane action. It is, however, an intriguing look at how something like that can have such huge effects on the people surrounding it.

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Being a movie that takes place in 1963, it’s very important that it looks, sounds, and feels like 1963. Luckily, the production design of this movie is fantastic and bolsters everything with an almost eerie sense of reality. The clothing is all what you would picture people to be wearing, but there’s smaller things that really build the atmosphere more than anything else. Throughout Parkland, you both hear and see actual radio and television news broadcasts that pretty much started the notion of 24 hour news. This is like the cherry on top of the sundae, and really made me feel like I was in the middle of the chaos.

Finally, it is absolutely necessary to talk about the actors and writer/director Peter Landesman. The screenplay sprinkles moments of unflinchingly real humanity throughout the film, even if they’re just small acts of kindness or hostility. It’s moments like these that real bring the film to life, and make it one of the more memorable pieces of historic film making. Landesman doesn’t try to make anything feel bigger or smaller than it actually is, and the cast back him on that. The performances, especially by Paul Giamatti (as usual), Zac Efron, and James Badge Dale, all stand out as exemplary.

Parkland is a film that doesn’t get nearly the credit that it deserves. I’ve seen a lot of critics call it unorganized, slow, and say that the narrative doesn’t flow. Well, did all of the events flow in real life after JFK’s assassination? Or was it all just a mess of chaos and confusion. Not only is this film great to look at and full of memorable performances, it’s also historically accurate, and that’s why I give Parkland a heavy recommendation.