Since my Dad fought the Nazis in World War II, I remain interested
in stories about that awful War, particularly the ones “based on
It is true that the Germans took over Czechoslovakia (part of it
having been given to them before the War even started as a failed attempt
at propitiation). It is true
that their third in command (after Hitler and Himmler), General Reinhard
Heydrich, was stationed in Prague, and that he was assassinated there by
partisans. This is the story
of how they actually managed to pull it off.
Jan (Jamie Dornan) and Josef (Cillian Murphy) are loyalist Czechs,
exiled to London, where their Resistance cell plotted to assassinate the
highest-ranking German SS Officer (who had already begun his horrific
“Final Solution” of exterminating the Jews).
The movie opens with Jan and Josef parachuting in, behind enemy
lines, and meeting up with the Resistance cell still within occupied
Czechoslovakia (though their numbers are dwindling quickly due to
casualties and attrition). They
are “hidden in plain sight” inside Prague, living with a resident
family and supposedly looking for work.
When they go out in public, they are accompanied by young ladies
willing to take on the danger of being discovered assisting the
Resistance. There are several
close calls, as the soldiers seem to be everywhere, and the Resistance
cell is struggling to communicate with each other, as well as with their
counterparts exiled in London.
Jan and Josef carefully monitor the movements of Gen. Heydrich, and
think they have found an exploitable weakness:
at times his chauffeur-driven automobile is unaccompanied by armed
guard, and usually follows the same route, which includes a sharp curve
where the car must slow down. It
is at that point that Jan and Josef plan to jump out with their contraband
weapons. True, there's a
tremendous risk, and the escape plans are sketchy at best.
But they figure it'll be worth it, striking a blow against the
It is indeed sobering to see the screen's representation of
occupied Prague in 1941, the height of the Third Reich's power, when it
appeared the Germans were invincible in Europe.
Nazi banners everywhere, Nazi salutes, and already, stories of
great atrocities against the civilian population (though the full horror
was not revealed until afterwards).
Naturally, in the assassination plot, not everything went precisely
as planned. But it went better
than anyone thought it could---they actually succeeded in wounding Gen.
Heydrich, who later succumbed at the local hospital.
The Nazi fury was immediate. They
rounded up anyone suspected of possibly co-operating, and tortured many
until they discovered the hiding place of the Resistance cell, which, it
turned out, was in the basement crypt of the cathedral.
The Nazi garrison attacks the church, and though they suffered some
casualties in the resulting firefight, the outcome was never in doubt.
Nor did the Resistance leaders doubt that there would be reprisals
against the civilian population: but
even they were stunned by the severity of the “punishment.”
Yes, it's a grim aftermath. But
it's the kind of war story that makes you appreciate the tremendous
sacrifice of many brave souls in that War, many of whom never returned to
lead the “normal” life they were fighting to preserve.
It's a somber, gritty tale, but worth the re-telling.
Bad accents and all.