Film scores

Soundtrack review: Anthropoid (Robin Foster – 2016)

anthropoid

“Anthropoid” is a 2016 UK-French-Czech historical thriller film directed by Sean Ellis, from a screenplay by Ellis and Anthony Frewin, starring Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Harry Lloyd, Toby Jones, Charlotte Le Bon, and Bill Milner. It tells the story of Operation Anthropoid, the World War II assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the main architect behind the Final Solution and the Reich’s third in command after Hitler and Himmler, by Czechoslovak exile soldiers on 27 May 1942. The score was written by Robin Foster.
For me this is a kind of story for which you can rarely go wrong with the score; either the composer experiments and comes up with a surprising and interesting score which will attract the listeners and movie goers or he goes the dark and tense way that a stealth operation asks for and even if it’s been done before, it will work because this is how a story like this is supposed to sound. The opening of the score seems to indicate that Robin Foster chose the second option.
The way “Anthropoid” develops reminds me of scores written for thrillers that take place in the desert or in Mexico, the drug related thrillers. For me these score have a special sound that makes me feel uncomfortable and uneasy with sharp and prolonged raw guitar motifs and very tense sections where the instruments are barely touch but they reverberate until the sound reaches my ear. It’s a constant, palpable tension that boils and boils without exploding. There’s actually a very thin line between this and a dense horror score.
I like the minimalistic way in which Robin Foster chose to write this one. In 2015 there was a trend of minimalistic scores which hasn’t been repeated this year but “Anthropoid” falls into that category and it works. I feel worried, I feel jumpy and I know that this thing I embarked on has almost zero chances of success. The score is tightly shut and no ray of light can get in. A cue like “A decoded message” can be torture but this is the whole point. The music helps the movie induce these feelings and I can relate to them even without the aid of the images.
I am sure “Anthropoid” will not be for anyone. Sure, emotional and beautiful piano themes like “Lenka’s theme” and “A death in the family” can warm any heart but the fabric of this score is dark and uncomfortable and experimental and might throw some people off. In some moments it makes me think of the way Trent Reznor and Atticul Ross approach film scoring. Remember though that the music is here to serve the movie and I am sure Robin Foster’s composition succeeds.
A cue like “The crypt” will always find place on my list of favorites; the beautiful and deeply reflective “End titles” as well. I enjoyed the standalone listen because it made me feel; I didn’t feel good and positive things but then again, I wasn’t supposed to.

Cue rating: 84 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 18/33
Album excellence: 55%
Highlights:
The Repairman
The Darkroom
Lenka’s Theme
The Assassination
A Death in the Family
The Crypt
End Titles

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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