Sunday 17 September 2023

Movie Review: Operation Daybreak (1975)

Genre: World War Two Drama Thriller
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Starring: Timothy Bottoms, Martin Shaw, Anthony Andrews, Nicola Pagett
Running Time: 118 minutes

Synopsis: In 1941, British-trained Czech partisans Jan (Timothy Bottoms), Jozef (Anthony Andrews), and Karel (Martin Shaw) are selected for a mission to assassinate the ruthless Reich Protector in occupied Prague, Reinhard Heydrich (Anton Diffring). After parachuting into the countryside the trio connect with underground agents, and Jan starts a romance with resistance member Anna (Nicola Pagett). Jan and Jozef struggle to find a suitable opportunity to target the well-guarded Heydrich, and in desperation decide to attempt a high-risk close-range shooting.

What Works Well: Based on the actual events of Operation Anthropoid, this is a grimly effective war drama capturing the realities of asymmetrical conflict. With Prague trampled by Nazi soldiers, the partisans are beset by suspicion and paranoid about infiltrators, yet still intent on carrying out an audacious mission. The absence of star names enhances the emphasis on storytelling, and director Lewis Gilbert's pacing is careful and deliberate, making full use of the thick greys and browns of a suffocating occupation. The second-half builds fearsome momentum as the aftermath of the assassination attempt echoes with brutal vengeance, unyielding heroism, and finally unforgettable poignancy.

What Does Not Work As Well: The additional paratroopers sent to support the mission are confined to the deep background, and the romantic sub-plot carries all the clunkiness of an unnecessary add-on.

Conclusion: A classic merger of daring and authenticity.

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