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Film / Anthropoid

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"I believe what London is asking is this: Is Czechoslovakia still ready and willing to resist Nazi Germany?"

Anthropoid is a 2016 historical thriller about the real life Operation Anthropoid during World War II: a plot by the Czech resistance (with support from the Czech government in exile in London) to assassinate the Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Nazi occupation of the Czech territories, in Prague.

It stars Cillian Murphy as Jozef Gabčík, Jamie Dornan as Jan Kubiš, Charlotte Le Bon as Marie Kovárníková, Anna Geislerová as Lenka Fafková, Harry Lloyd as Adolf Opálka, Toby Jones as Uncle Hajský and Detlef Bothe as Heydrich.

See also and compare Hangmen Also Die! (1943), Hitler's Madman (1943), Atentát (1964), Operation Daybreak (1975) and The Man with the Iron Heart (2017), all about the same historical events. The latter has a biopic focus on Heydrich's life and was released mere months after Anthropoid.

Warning: unmarked Death Tropes and Spoilers ahead!

This movie contains examples of:

  • Action Prologue: The film begins with Jan and Jozef making a organ parachute landing, then having a fight with a couple of collaborators.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: Invoked: Vanek reminds Jan and Josef of the Nazi propensity for this if they try to kill Heydrich.
    Vanek: I take it you have family in Czechoslovakia? Mother, father, brothers? You kill Heydrich, you can consider them and anyone who ever knew you dead.
  • Artistic License – History: While the film is extremely accurate on many details, a few points are added for drama.
    • Jan and Jozef being immediately taken in by collaborators and then killing them is invented to provide an Action Prologue.
    • Jan's characterization as a green recruit whose hands shake at the thought of shooting someone is an invention for the sake of character development. Jan had already been in the military for six years by the time he parachuted back into Czechoslovakia, and there is no evidence that he suffered from anxiety problems.
    • German soldiers being killed during the Last Stand at the church, with automatic weapons. The commando had only pistols when the assault happened, and the German force sent to catch/kill them only suffered five lightly wounded.
    • Jozef's girlfriend Liběna Fafková (called Lenka in the film) was not killed while resisting arrest. Both she and Jan's girlfriend Marie Kovárníková were killed on the same day in Mauthausen Concentration Camp in 1942.
  • Assassination Attempt: The centerpiece of the plot is the assassination of Reinhardt Heydrich by members of the Czechoslovakian army-in-exile. Heydrich was the highest-ranking Nazi to be assassinated and the only one to be assassinated by a government.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Or rather, better to die than be captured, tortured until you give up all your friends, and then killed. As such, every resistance member who is able to commits suicide rather than be captured.
    Hajský: If you are arrested, you will face some harsh facts. There will be no escapes. You will be tortured until you reveal everything you know about the resistance, then you will be executed... Carry the cyanide capsules with you at all times.
  • Blatant Lies: After betraying them, Curda tries to get the surviving fighters in the church to surrender, claiming they'll be humanely treated as POWs. Jozef answers him with a spray of bullets and tells him they're not surrendering to the Nazis.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Uncle Hajský can't see without his glasses. When the Germans arrive to arrest him, he drops his cyanide pill and has to scramble to try and find it without his glasses, narrowly managing to find and swallow it before the Germans break down the door of the bathroom he'd locked himself in.
  • Bring Me My Brown Pants: Marie Moravcová pisses herself when brutally beaten and interrogated by the Gestapo. She asks a Czech police officer permission to clean herself up before she and her family are taken away; when the officer complies, Marie locks herself in and takes a cyanide pill she'd kept hidden there.
  • The Cavalry: Played with, in that Opalaka, Valcik, and Curda are sent in to help as the mission is underway rather than in the crisis-filled aftermath. The presence of the former two does help a lot but Curda turns out to be worse than useless.
  • Character Development: Jan is prone to anxiety and hesitation early in the film, requiring Jozef to put him through a training exercise of loading a pistol magazine to calm him down. In the end, Jan controls his emotions himself and puts another anxious comrade through the same exercise.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: A favorite of the Gestapo. A little of it is shown when they interrogate young Ata.
  • Commander Contrarian: Ladislav Vanek, one of the two heads of Jindra is definitely this compared to the Reasonable Authority Figure that is Hajský. He merely complains about the futility of the plan and is implied to have forged a stand-down order from London to try and prevent the assassination. He's a more sympathetic example than most, as Vanek admits he's genuinely afraid of how terrible the German retaliation for an assassination attempt on Heydrich would be, successful or not.
    Vanek: You kill Heydrich, and Hitler will tear Prague apart.
  • Cyanide Pill: Every member of the commando plus a few of the people who help them have cyanide pills in case they get caught by the Germans. And some of these are eventually put to good use.
  • Darkest Hour: For the resistance, when the assassination attempt apparently fails, and they learn that Lenka has been shot.
  • Decapitation Presentation: One of the tortures used to try and break Ata was to show him his mother's severed head (she took her cyanide pill when the Germans arrested her and her family). This actually happened in real life.
  • Dying Candle: The last candle in the crypt is extinguished by the rising water as Jozef shoots himself.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: As happened in real life, the Nazis slaughter thousands of innocent Czechs as retaliation for the assassination attempt. After Heydrich dies of his wounds, they give five days for someone to turn in the assassins, else they will execute 15,000 Czechs in response. The brutal massacre of Lidice in retaliation for Heydrich's assassination is also referenced.
  • Fingore: The Gestapo break Ata's fingers with a hammer while torturing him.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Karl Hermann Frank, who takes over as Reichsprotector after Heydrich's injury and death, and instigates the brutal wave of Nazi reprisals, including the massacre at Lidice, in retaliation.
  • Furniture Blockade: After fending off the first Nazi attack on the church, Jan, Bublík and Opálka blockade the stairway to the prayer loft they're making their last stand in with chairs, lecterns, benches and other bits of furniture on hand.
    Josef Bublík: That's our only way out!
    Adolf Opálka: It's also their only way up!
  • Gun Stripping: One of Lenka's Establishing Character Moments has her grabbing one of the assassins' pistols and field stripping it, as a means of showing she's more than just a pretty girl.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Lenka. When she first arrives as Jozef's date, Jan tells him, "You really landed on your feet with Lenka!" Later, she shows some leg to a Nazi to successfully distract him.
  • Hero of Another Story: The rest of the paratroopers.
  • Heroic Suicide: Jan suggests this after hearing about the Lidice massacre and the ongoing Nazi reprisals, saying he and Josef can go to a public place, openly declare themselves Heydrich's assassins and then kill themselves. Opalka and Father Petrek dismiss the idea, insisting it won't placate the Nazis.
  • Historical Beauty Upgrade: Jan and Jozef weren't quite the Hollywood hunks that Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan are. Jan did look a bit like a young Jack Lemmon.
  • Hollywood Healing: Jozef suffers a grievous wound to his foot that will require stitches. After one scene of limping, the wound is never brought up again.
  • Hope Spot: During the final shootout, first we have the hope that the Nazis won't find the hiding place of Jozef and the three men with him after Jan, Opalka and one of the paratroopers not involved in the mission are killed and then we do get a brief hope that their chipping away at the wall to try and escape into the tunnels as they fight off the Germans might work.
  • In the Back:
    • Lenka is gunned down from behind by a Nazi soldier while trying to run for her life. She chose to run rather than be rounded up with the Czech civilians taken hostage in retaliation for Heydrich's assassination.
    • During the final battle when the Nazis storm the church, Jozef Bublík, one of the Resistance fighters is caught by a grenade blast and left dangling from a balcony. Jan tries to pull him to safety, but before he can, Bublík gets shot from behind and falls to his death Bublík and Opálka also get the jump on the Nazis entering the church by gunning down several of them from behind.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Marie and Jan are interrupted while getting frisky in the bedroom without their clothes in one scene.
  • It's All My Fault:
    • Jozef has this response when he learns Lenka has been killed. Jan consoles him otherwise.
    • The assassins have a collective reaction of this when they're informed of the massacre at Lidice. Father Vladimir Petrek, the priest sheltering them, insists they are not to blame.
    Father Petrek: The responsibility does not rest with you. We all know who is responsible. They will have to answer for it one day, and they will. I would not be here if I did not believe that.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Hajský invokes the spirit of this while taking Jan and Josef to hide in the Sts Cyril and Methodius cathedral. For added sadness, it's the last thing he ever says to them.
    Hajský: I regret nothing. You're the bravest men I've ever met.
  • It's Personal: When Jozef offers Lenka a chance to walk away, she refuses, insisting her work with the Czech resistance is personal; her father was a Czechoslovak Army captain who was executed in the same week that Heydrich took power.
  • Killed Offscreen: Heydrich dies of his injuries in hospital some time after the assassination attempt.
  • La Résistance: The film is about an operation that aimed at "waking up" the Czech resistance to Nazi Germany.
  • Last Stand: After the Germans discover the church where they're hiding, the last seven plotters hold off a vastly larger, vastly better-equipped German force for quite a while (in Real Life they did so for six hours), killing a number of them in the process.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The two Czechs at the beginning of the movie, who try to turn Jozef and Jan in to the Germans. Later, Karel Curda becomes a collaborator by selling out his fellow resistance members. In real life, Karel continued to act as a Gestapo informant throughout the war and was executed for treason afterwards.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: In the final scene of the movie, when the Germans break into the crypt and the last four parachutists kill themselves, all sound cuts out save for a slow, sad piano piece.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!":
    • Jan, Opálka and Bublík, on guard duty in the cathedral prayer loft, have this reaction when they realise the Germans are surrounding the church. Josef, Valcik and the others resting in the crypt have it moments later when they're woken by the gunfire from above.
    • It's also the reaction of everyone on the day of the assassination when Josef's Sten machine gun jams and their entire plan goes to hell.
  • Mood Whiplash: The brief Hope Spot the fighters have upon learning Heydrich has died of his injuries in hospital is swiftly shattered when the priest sheltering them informs them of the massacre at Lidice in retaliation for his assassination.
  • Oh, Crap!: Adolf Opálka's reaction to an armed grenade landing at his feet.
    • Jan and Josef's reaction when Hajský informs them Hitler is having Heydrich transferred to Paris in two days time, meaning they have to carry out the attack the next day no matter what.
    • Also Heydrich's reaction to a man pointing a machine gun at him...followed by Josef when said gun jams and Heydrich grabs his pistol.
  • Properly Paranoid: Jozef and Jan are put through an extensive interrogation when they first meet the Czech resistance. Afterwards, Hajský apologises, but insists it's a necessity, given how effective the Gestapo have been at infiltrating and sabotaging their organisation.
  • Rasputinian Death: Opálka is severely injured by a grenade, chews his cyanide capsule, and shoots himself in the head.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: That insanely lopsided, purely Hollywood Last Stand in the climax actually happened.
    • In spite of the fact that there were only seven Czech partisans with small-caliber sidearms and 750 SS soldiers and policemen, armed with machine guns, submachine guns, and grenades, the stand-off lasted for six hours. The gunfight with the assassins in the prayer loft took two hours, while the remainder were attempts to flush out the assassins in the crypt.
    • The SS soldiers rushing forward like lemmings only to be shot by the assassins seems like a lot of Hollywood Tactics, but the soldiers were attempting to take the assassins alive to get information out of them, which would inhibit their effectiveness.
    • The Nazis are shown to start flooding the crypt, but once the water reaches waist high, they just start pushing troops down a narrow chokepoint to get shot at, making you wonder why they bothered with the water. This also really happened. The Nazis gave up trying to flood the crypt, though the rationale is disputed in various Nazi reports, and started sending troops down a steep stairway to attack the assassins directly as seen in the film.
    • Despite seeming like a place out of a horror movie the room where Ata is being tortured is the actual historical room at so-called Petschka palace, then the Gestapo headquarters in Prague, currently the Czech ministry of industry and trade.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: The Gestapo indulge in beating Curda despite him giving them the information they wanted.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Subverted. Jozef wants to go on one of these after he finds out Lenka is dead. Jan talks him down, insisting it would achieve nothing and just put them all in danger.
    Jan Kubis: You're risking all our lives, Jozef, and for what? To shoot a few Germans?
  • Scenery Porn: There are some beautiful wide shots of Prague throughout the film.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After the group think they've botched the assassination, Curda declares his intention to flee Prague with his family. Josef immediately stops him, pointing out that the Nazis have locked down the city and Curda will be arrested before he can escape.
  • Show Some Leg: When two German soldiers are conducting a search inside the café where the commandos and Uncle Hajský discuss the operation in the backroom, Lenka lets her cup of coffee fall on the ground on purpose to distract them. One of the two soldiers is very pleased at the view on her legs, and both soldiers then leave without insisting.
  • Shown Their Work: A lot of specific details in the film are entirely accurate to real life, including Jozef's foot getting injured during insertion, the Sten gun jamming during the assassination, Jozef shooting Heydrich's driver in a butcher's shop, Marie Moravcová going to the bathroom to commit suicide, Ata being shown his mother's head during torture, and the Nazis trying to flush the assassins out of the crypt with water only to abandon the plan.
  • Spiteful Suicide: Seriously injured in the church battle, Jan's last act is to give the Nazis ordering him to surrender a defiant smirk before using his last bullet to blow his brains out.
  • Tag Line: "Resistance has a code name".
  • Take a Third Option: Subverted; Vanek suggests assassinating a few lower ranking Nazis to prove the Czech resistance is still operating, but Jan and Josef dismiss the idea, insisting killing Heydrich will have the biggest impact.
  • Taking the Heat: Ata's mother claims that her family is innocent after being captured. It doesn't work.
  • This Is Unforgivable!:
    • The epilogue states that after the sheer scale of the brutality inflicted on the Czechs in retaliation for Heydrich's assassination, Winston Churchill declared the Munich Agreement of 1938, which had allowed Nazi Germany to annex Czechoslovakia, null and void.
    • Invoked and ultimately subverted by Jindra in regards to the Munich Agreement: while they're still pissed off about it, ultimately they acknowledge in the face of the war and the Nazi occupation of Europe, there are bigger problems.
    Vanek: [Anthropoid] is about the Czech government impressing the Allies?! It was the Allies who gave us to the Germans in the first place!
    Hajský: Munich was a betrayal...but it is also now history.
  • Traitor Shot: After Reinhard Heydrich has been assassinated, the Germans offer a large sum of money and immunity from prosecution to anyone with information. One of the Resistance cell is in the crowd looking at the poster, and the camera zooms in on their face. Guess who talks?
  • Translation Convention: English stands for Czech. German is untranslated.
  • True Companions: Jan, Jozef, Opalaka and Valchik, by the final act.
  • Turncoat: Čurda, who betrays the other resistance members on promise of a pardon for himself and his family, as well as a large reward. It did him little good in the end: after the war, he was hunted down, arrested and executed for treason.
  • Villainous Valor: When the assassins ambush his car, rather than try to flee, Heydrich and his driver both pull out their guns and start shooting back.
  • Wham Shot: The blood spatters on the upholstery of Heydrich's car, showing the assassins managed to fatally injure him despite the botching of their plan.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The fate of Ata and his father is not shown: the last we see of Ata is him being dragged back to his cell after the Gestapo are done with himnote .
    • The same is true of Marie and Vanek who are alive and free at the end of the movie as far as the main characters know, but are prime targets for the manhunt.note .
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: This is pretty much the reaction of everyone in Jindra, the Czech resistance when Jozef and Jan blunty state their mission objective is to assassinate Heydrich.
    Vanek: What is Anthropoid?
    Jozef: We are here to assassinate SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich. (everyone else in the room is in shock)