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Laramie Movie Scope:

Operation by Czech resistance against Nazi SS high command

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2016; Czech, English, German) In the Munich betrayal of 1938, Hitler coerced Czechoslovakia's neighbors to accede to his demand of turning over the country to Nazi occupation and rule. When resistance hinders factory production critical to Germany's war effort, director and co-writer Sean Ellis, with screenwriter Anthony Frewin, introduces a dramatization of actual events by stating: "Hitler sends his third-in-command to crush any resistance to the Nazi regime." SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich quickly became known as the butcher of Prague.

A pair of parachutists, Josef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy) from Slovakia and Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan) from Moravia, land in the snowy woods off-course from their objective. Jan has suffered a gashed foot wound. They are discovered and deceived by a man who offers them shelter, soup, and rest. Realizing the danger in time, they turn on their antagonist, with another man, taking a truck into Prague.

In search of their contact, Oldrich Novak, the two men are directed to Dr Eduard (Sean Mahon), a veterinarian, who sews up the wound and appraises them of the situation: "Heydrich has all but crushed the resistance." Driven by Bretislav Bauman to a meeting with the heads of Jindra Organization, Ladislav Vanék (Marcin Dorocinski) and Uncle Hajský (Toby Jones), the Czech resistance, Jan and Josef are interrogated to make certain that they are not Nazi infiltrators.

When Josef and Jan announce their mission, Operation Anthropoid, by order of the exiled Czech government in London, is to assassinate Heydrich, Ladislav erupts: "You kill Heydrich and Hitler will tear Prague apart.... So this is about the Czech government in London trying to impress the allies? It was the allies that gave us to the Germans in the first place!"

The parachutists are taken to stay in the home of Mrs Moravec (Alena Muhulová), who lives with her husband Alois and teenage son Ata, a violinist, where they are introduced to Marie Kovárniková (Charlotte Le Bon), who assists Mrs Moravec with household chores. To provide the two men with cover on the outside, Marie and her friend Lenka Fafková (Anna Geislerová) accompany them to a New Year's Eve celebration.

Josef remarks sourly to Lenka's wearing red lipstick that lipstick gets noticed, drawing attention to himself and Jan among Nazis, which could get them all shot. Instructed to slap him, Lenka adds: "I'm not a whore." The next day she apologizes, telling Josef she'd not been fully informed: "Marie still has romantic ideas about the war…. War is not romantic." Yet both men become increasingly involved intimately with the two women.

Following reestablishment of communications with London, the resistance group, including Lt Adolf Opálka (Harru Lloyd) and Kaerl ?urda (Jiri Simek), begins planning the assassination, keeping track of Heydrick's movements in search of a pattern, his arrivals and departures with and without armed escort. Everyone with the resistance is supplied with a cyanide capsule to protect fellow patriots if captured since the Nazis will torture and then kill them if taken alive.

Josef says to Jan that the success of their mission is primary; whatever happens afterward isn't important. Marie and Lenka upon learning of the mission's target are disturb by the likely consequences. "Just tell me we are doing the right thing," Marie requests. Lenka relates to Josef that her father, a military officer, was among the first 5,000 Czechs rounded up and shot.

On Ata's birthday, Jan announces his engagement to Marie, an act of having hope for a future. A coded message from London directs Jan and Josef: "Proceed. Utmost importance." A report that Heydrich will be returning to Berlin and then sent to Paris forces the group to advance their timetable to tomorrow, a hasty move that Ladislav opposes, claiming he has just received a message for them to stand down.

Insisting that his message takes precedence, Josef, suspicious of Vanék's motives, questions: "What are you afraid of?" He replies that he fears Czechoslovakia will be wiped off the map. When Jan suffers a panic attack, Josef soothes his anxiety with the reminder to rely on his training: "We are not afraid."

One of the men assigned to assist Jan and Josef fails to show up. An emergency with curfew immediately follows the attack on Heydrich's car; thousands of hostages are detained with threats that entire families will be executed if those responsible do not turn themselves in. Before Jan and Josef are taken to the Methodist church and hidden in a secret crypt with five other parachutists, Marie reveals a personal tragedy.

In an initial retaliation, the village of Lidice is razed by the Nazis, killing all males sixteen and older and transporting everyone else off to camps. An additional 30,000 Czechs will be killed if the resistance does not surrender. Betrayed by one of their own, the escape plan is stymied. For six hours inside the church, the seven parachutists hold off the Germans.

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Copyright © 2017 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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