Watched: 19 January
This thriller about the Second World War assassination of Reinhard Heydrick (Jason Clarke) in Czechoslovakia was always going to struggle; it’s the umpteenth telling of said story, the most recent iteration being 2016’s Anthropoid, starring Cillian Murphy, Toby Jones et al. There’s more of an emphasis on the character of Heydrick here than in Anthropoid, with a prolonged attempt to explain just how this monstrous, murdering Nazi fuckstick became a monstrous, murdering Nazi fuckstick (it’s all a woman’s fault, apparently, with Rosamund Pike playing Heydrick’s wife Lina, who slips him a copy of Mein Kampf early in the film, thus introducing him to Hitler’s ideology). After joining the party and ‘distinguishing’ himself through cold, brutal violence, Heydrick then meets Heinrich Himmler (played by Stephen Graham, now sadly typecast and pretty much the go-to man whenever someone is required to portray a deranged psychopath), and subsequently rises further within the SS, eventually taking on a key role in the perpetuation of the Holocaust as it spreads across Europe.
Clarke is fine in a role that requires him to ‘go big’ with regularity, as is Pike as Lina, but the first half of director Cédric Jimenez’s film is never anything other than a perfunctory affair, and there’s a certain casual matter-of-factness to the way that various violent acts are stitched together in a throwaway passing-of-time montage that I’m not altogether comfortable with. The second half concentrates more on the killing of Heydrick – Operation Anthropoid – and the aftermath, and at this point Jack Reynor and Jack O’Connell come to the fore, playing two of the Czech agents who carried out the task. Again, nothing particularly bad and nothing particularly great about this part of the film, but it lacks much of the tension that steadily built in 2016’s take on the story, made by Sean Ellis. Prior to this Jimenez made the entertaining cat and mouse gangster film The Connection, which I think was unfairly brushed aside and underrated, and I had been looking forward to seeing what he came up with next; sadly it’s a bit of a disappointment. (**½)