American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I don’t want to burden you with my petty professional problems, but writing movie reviews in the age of the spoiler-sensitive consumer can be a little trying at times. And this time is one of them. Written and directed by Sean Ellis, “Anthropoid,” despite a title that to some might seem to promise a “Predator”-style sci-fi thriller, is in fact a historical drama based, as they like to say, on true events.
The events take place in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in the early 1940s. As students of World War II should know—well, as anyone should know, really, but let’s not get into that—Czechoslovakia was for all intents and purposes handed over to Germany in 1939, which gave Hitler access to a wealth of natural resources and manufacturing power to fuel the German war machine which then went on to conquer Poland and put the Second World War into active motion. The SS was terribly efficient in quashing the Czechoslovakian resistance movement, but a Czech government in absentia kept up the effort, and in late 1941 it flew a plane from England and dispatched parachutists to drop outside of Prague, where they were to begin a daring and divisive mission.
The movie begins by following two parachutists, Jan (Jamie Dornan) and Josef (Cillian Murphy). Josef cuts his foot badly on the way down and needs some stitching up. Contemporary movies like to signal their integrity and/or authenticity by including graphic scenes depicting the suturing of icky wounds, and this one is no exception. The duo’s bad luck continues, as they are sniffed out and then nearly sold out by a couple of quasi-quisling farm folk. And then, once they get to Prague and make their contacts, the remnants of the Czechoslovakian resistance with whom they have to work are in large part appalled by the mission they’ve come to carry out. That is, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, engineer of the Final Solution and the iron fist personally dispatched by Hitler to crush resistance, a man nicknamed “the Butcher of Prague.”
Local resistance leader Ladislav (Marcin Dorocinski) balks, while suitably avuncular cohort “Uncle” Hajsky (Toby Jones) counsels cooperation. Jan and Josef shack up with a local family, establish covers in part by romancing a couple of local women, and start doing recon to determine the pattern of Heydrich’s comings and goings.
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