There are two kinds of war films, in my limited experience. Those that capture something of the horrific nature of war, as well as the dabs of humanity that go with it, and those – like Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds – which completely miss the point. Last night I visited, for the first time, the Dominion cinema that many in Edinburgh speak of, to watch the WWII movie Anthropoid. I knew the basic gist of it, about the Czechoslovakian resistance movement and its attempt to assassinate one of Hitler's top officials. I also knew the cast was strong, with the likes of Cillian Murphy and Toby Jones.
I was blown away by this movie. It is one of the best war/resistance movies I've ever seen, and left me by the end curled up in a ball on my plush leather recliner (I'd removed my shoes). It's a film that's brutal and explicit in all the right areas – we get love scenes but we don't get sex; we see death but sometimes in the gentlest snapshots. It doesn't hurt that it takes place in beautiful Prague, and that the final siege is in a church of tiers and hidden crypts, of brave men scared out of their minds, fighting to the death. When you also get the hypnotic beauty and roughness of Cillian Murphy leading the assassination attempt, you also get a film personified by the nuances of its leading man. There is a scene at the end, when the Nazis are trying to drown those hiding in the crypt, with Murphy's character and his colleagues facing death, that has remained with me as if I am still there, not just in the cinema but there with them in the spray and the shards of light. It made me cry, it made me admire them, and to cheer for them and hope for the country they're fighting for and the afterlife they're facing.
Importantly, it also made you realize the costs of war. It's easy to talk of resistance against tyranny; there are plenty of political slimeballs who would start a war and cite Neville Chamberlain's Munich submission to Hitler's demands as a coward's alternative. But in Anthropoid we get terrible glimpses of the consequences for those people who choose to make a stand: the torture, the fear, not just you but those close to you. The possibility of making things worse – much worse – for you and the ones you love and the people you're fighting for, we see this in heart-breaking depth in Anthropoid. There are movies where you leave the cinema behind you feeling nonplussed. This is not one of them.
A few final words for the Dominion cinema. I was starting to think of cinemas as pubs. My heart-warming local being the Cameo, my guilty wine-bar pleasure being the Filmhouse. And for going out clubbing to bigger, less personal space, the Odeon and Cineworld. The Dominion is something else, a genuine 'experience' with soft leather reclining chairs, the extra touch of a free can of Pringles, you feel like you're in a private screening. I was impressed, even if the £11.65 (no discount for students on Saturday nights) made it a pricier visit compared to others. They tend to do only mainstream movies, but when it's a good mainstream movie, I do recommend this place as a special treat to any movie goer.