Killing Heydrich

Detlef Bothe stars as Reinhard Heydrich in director Sean Ellis’ ANTHROPOID, a Bleecker Street release.
Credit : James Lisle / Bleecker StreetDetlef Bothe stars as Reinhard Heydrich in director Sean Ellis’ ANTHROPOID, a Bleecker Street release. Credit : James Lisle / Bleecker Street

The May 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Germany’s Reichsprotektor for Bohemia and Moravia, altered the course of World War II. Anthropoid (in theaters August 12) tells the story of the Czech resistance fighters who parachuted into Prague with a risky plan to take out the Nazi Germany’s third-in-command.

Heydrich had been sent to Prague to quell the resistance and his brutal methods earned him the nickname “The Butcher of Prague.” And he was the architect of Germany’s “Final Solution.” Many historians think he was Hitler’s most talented aide and his ability to speak directly to the Fuhrer was sorely missed after his demise.

Anthropoid is the first movie to concentrate on the assassination. Made by a team that included several Czech producers, the whole enterprise feels like a project to teach the English-speaking world about an event that deserves more weight in the overall story of the war. There are a couple of real movie stars playing the Czech resistance fighters Josef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš: Cillian Murphy (Josef) appeared in the first two Christopher Nolan Batman movies as the Scarecrow and stars in the excellent Peaky Blinders series on Netflix and Jamie Dornan (Jan) has this gig playing Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades trilogy. Most of the Czech roles are played by Irish and British actors speaking English with an Eastern European accent. All of the Germans speak German.

We’ve got a clip of the moments leading up to the attempt on Heydrich’s life.

After the film’s slow, methodical buildup to that moment, the movie amps up as the Nazis try to locate the men responsible. Both Gabčík and Kubiš bravely lead their fellow resistance fighters as the Germans close in.