Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943 Prague to assassinate a top Nazi official. Certainly the material is perfect for a big-screen thriller, and filmmaker Sean Ellis (Metro Manila) has filmed it with a documentary-style urgency that's edgy and exciting. He also has a sharp attention to detail, so the film is bracingly realistic, carrying a strong emotional kick in the final act.
In 1938, Western Europe's leaders handed Czechoslovakia over to Hitler when he promised not to start a war. But of course he invaded Poland the following year. So in 1941, the British military parachutes a team of Czech exiles back into their country to help the resistance. Two of these men, Jan and Josef (Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy), are on a secret mission to kill Reinhard Heydrich, the third in Nazi command after Hitler and Himmler. Known as the Butcher of Prague for his ruthless methods, it was Heydrich who devised the plan to exterminate the Jews. The resistance leader (Toby Jones) offers assistance for this mission, while two young women (Charlotte Le Bon and Anna Geislerova) pose as Jan and Josef's girlfriends. But with heavy security around Heydrich, carrying this off is not going to be easy.
Ellis impressively manages to tell this story without present-day hindsight, seeing all sides of the situation from the perspective of the people involved. In other words, it's not just a matter of killing a historical villain: everyone knows that the repercussions of such an act would be horrific as the Nazis exacted brutal revenge. But they also knew that, within this small window of time, they had a chance to deliver a serious blow to the enemy. Ellis structures this carefully, building up to the assassination in a way that develops almost unbearable levels of suspense. The complexity of each scene is remarkable, and the film's final act is a stunning explosion of desperate violence.
Continue reading: Anthropoid Review
Reinhard Heydrich was one of the fiercest anti-Semitic officers in the Nazi army. He authored the Final Solution plan which detailed the extermination of Jews throughout Europe and was the third most powerful member of The Nazi Party only surpassed by Hitler and Heinrich Himmler. Heydrich's reputation as one of the most dangerous and darkest officers in the regime was known throughout Europe.
Having been appointed as the head of the army in Czechoslovakia, Heydrich did his best to distance himself from any possible threat, the resistance army were few and far between and were barely operational and Heydrich's control of the region was continually strengthening.
Two Czech soldiers who were living in exile find themselves as the most important people in a mission to assassinate Heydrich. Their mission is called Anthropod and they have been trained by the British military to go into Prague and end Heydrich's reign, which was so brutal he was nicknamed The Butcher Of Prague.
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An unusual point of view prevents this from ever turning into the standard biopic, but it's Eddie Redmayne's staggeringly committed performance as Stephen Hawking that makes the film unmissable. Based on the book by Stephen's wife Jane Hawking, the film uses her perspective to recount the events with their relationship firmly at the centre, which adds a personal angle the audience can engage with. This diverts the attention from Hawking's scientific breakthroughs, but makes the film both energetic and emotionally riveting.
It opens in 1963 when Stephen (Redmayne) is a rising-star at Cambridge, already a genius who thinks far outside the box. But he also has a sharp sense of humour, which makes it easy to see what Jane (Felicity Jones) sees in this brainy black-hole-obsessed geek. Then just as their relationship begins to get serious, he is diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given two years to live. Instead of giving up, Jane marries him and has three kids as Stephen defies the doctor's prognosis. As his physical condition deteriorates, they get help from two people who become unexpectedly close: widowed choir director Jonathan (Charlie Cox) and medical assistant Elaine (Maxine Peake). And even as their marriage comes apart under the pressure, Jane and Stephen remain deeply connected to each other.
Anthony McCarten's script cleverly lets big ideas swirl around each scene without swamping the more human story. The central factor in Stephen and Jane's interaction centres on faith: his in science, hers in God. Stephen continues to seek a theory that will scientifically explain the nature of existence, while Jane catches him out when he takes a leap of faith himself. And the film lets all of this play out through their interaction with a variety of terrific side characters, including Stephen's tutor (David Thewlis), his colleagues (Harry Lloyd and Enzo Cilenti), his father (Simon McBurney) and Jane's mother (Emily Watson). Each performance is packed with telling nuance, while Jones gives the film a textured heart and soul.
Continue reading: The Theory Of Everything Review
Coming from a privileged upbringing, cosmologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking naturally had a first-rate education - though no-one could expect the kind of genius and revolutionary theories that he would eventually come up with. While wowing his university professors with his baffling discoveries, he was fighting a personal battle with his rapidly deteriorating health. Whilst still studying, he began to lose the ability to walk as well as the ability to speak before being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and given a two-year expect survival rate. As to be expected from one of the world's most accomplished scientists, he defied the odds and embarked on a long and fulfilling life that lasts to this day - with just a little help from the love of his youth Jane Wilde, who encouraged him to carry on speaking with the help of his trademark speech generating device.
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When Margaret Thatcher started out in politics she always aspired to do something great, though just how far she'd take her career was beyond imagination. Having first made her mark in local politics in 1959, Margaret was named MP for the first time.
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Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...
Reinhard Heydrich was one of the fiercest anti-Semitic officers in the Nazi army. He authored...
An unusual point of view prevents this from ever turning into the standard biopic, but...
Coming from a privileged upbringing, cosmologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking naturally had a first-rate...
When Margaret Thatcher started out in politics she always aspired to do something great, though...