ANTHROPOID is a fantastically paced, impeccably accurate historical thriller nestled inside a longer, less disciplined film. That central chunk of story, in which Czech special operatives devise and execute a plan to assassinate Nazi butcher Reinhard Heydrich, is one of the tightest and most excruciatingly intense sequences of filmmaking I’ve seen this year. And thanks to skillful editing and the inherently dramatic nature of the events themselves, Anthropoid manages to stay beat for beat with the historical record without feeling like a dry history lesson.
Problem is, that’s not all you’ll be sitting through. As a 90-minute study of the assassination itself, Anthropoid could have been a real banger, a masterpiece of form and function. Instead, it’s a 120-minute recitation of the Operation Anthropoid Wikipedia page, the back half of which gets lost in Nazi brutality and increasingly cartoonish gunplay. The film’s previously keen attention to historical detail is diluted by a mixture of Hollywood conventions and wartime propaganda, and director Sean Ellis can’t decide if he’s making a caper film or a tragic romance or a gritty shoot-’em-up. The result: a film that’s admirable, but hard to recommend.