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Resistance fighters battle the Nazis, and their own fears, in "Anthropoid," a small-scale war thriller that's surprisingly effective.

A group of exiled Czechoslovakian rebels parachute back into Prague one night in 1942, determined to carry out a mission code-named Operation Anthropoid. The target: Richard Heydrich, "The Butcher of Prague," the highest-ranking German official in the occupied country and one of the architects of Hitler's "Final Solution" to exterminate Jews.

Writer-director Sean Ellis ("The Broken") focuses on two of the Resistance fighters, Josef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan), as they spend months gathering intelligence on Heydrich's routine to plan the best place for an assassination attempt. That attempt comes at the movie's midpoint, with the movie's second half focusing on the aftermath.

The action sequences are well-staged, but the real tension comes in the quieter scenes between Murphy and Dornan, as the two men have to bolster each other's confidence for the fight ahead. The idea of thoughtful introspection mixed into a thriller is a tricky proposition, but Ellis makes it work to maximum effect.


Opens Friday, Aug. 12, at area theaters; rated R for violence and some disturbing images; 120 minutes.