Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Deadly plot to kill Hitler’s successor

A POWERFUL wartime thriller based on real events, Anthropoid tells the story of a group of

A POWERFUL wartime thriller based on real events, Anthropoid tells the story of a group of Czech resistance fighters who plot to assassinate high-ranking Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich, the acting reich protector of Bohemia and Moravia.

He was also, notoriously, the man responsible for orchestrating the Nazis’ final solution and chaired the 1942 Wannsee Conference to that effect — an occasion dramatised in the award-winning 2001 BBC/HBO film Conspiracy. (Reading actor Kenneth Branagh won an Emmy for his portrayal of Heydrich, who was touted as Hitler’s likely successor.)

Combining a breakneck plot, exquisite attention to historical detail, violence and gut-churning suspense, Anthropoid echoes the likes of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army Of Shadows (1969), Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book (2006) and Edward Zwick’s Defiance (2008) in its depiction of individuals pushed to extreme acts of bravery in the face of unspeakable monstrosities.

Written by Metro Manila director Sean Ellis and Stanley Kubrick’s former personal assistant Anthony Frewin, the film opens with two Czech government agents Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis, played by Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan, returning to their homeland.

French-Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon and Anna Geislerová help make up a group of resistance fighters led by Uncle Jan Zelenka-Hajsky, played by Toby Jones, tasked with carrying out Operation Anthropoid.

But the mission is laced with complications, forcing the agents to go on the run as the attack on Heydrich sparks a wave of merciless Nazi reprisals across Czechoslovakia.

An intriguing footnote: it has been claimed that germ warfare researchers at Porton Down in Wiltshire “had a hand” in the operation, with the anti-tank grenade used in the attack on Heydrich having been modified to contain botulinum toxin.

The theory was first put forward by Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman in their 1982 book A Higher Form of Killing — a secret history of chemical and biological warfare.

Both authors are appearing at the Henley Literary Festival later this month (though not together) if you’d like to ask them about it.

Review: Joe Letts

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