The Man with the Iron Heart (2017) | Home Ent release

January 1st, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Cedric Jimenez | Writer: David Farr, Audrey Diwan, Cedric Jimenez | Cast: Jason Clarke, Rosamund Pike, Jack O’Connell, Jack Reynor, Mia Wasikowska, Stephen Graham, Celine Sallette, Gilles Lellouche | Screenplay: David Farr, Audrey Diwan, Cedric Jimenez | France | Biopic Drama | 

Jason Clarke and Rosamund Pike star alongside Jack O’Connell and Mia Wasikowska in this visually impressive but structurally questionable portrait of the rise of Nazism and the Heydrich assassination attempt at derailing its genesis.

Reinhard Heydrich was the leader of Czechoslovakia under Nazi occupation, and also the man behind the Final Solution. Douglas Sirk was the first to make a film about the affair only a year after it happened in 1943. Fritz Lang followed, and 75 years later came Anthropoid (Sean Ellis). But this is a far grander outing with its stellar cast and cool visual style, and unfurls in two sections; the first describing the rise to power of Heydrich, a swaggering libertine whose military career is masterminded by his politically astute wife (a gracefully convincing Rosamund Pike), who suggests he joins the Nazis at a time where they were merely a collection of incongruous agitators where under the control of Himmler (a shify Stephen Graham) he helps the party to the height of its merciless power. The camera then focuses on the group of Czechoslovak Resistance fighters who plot Heydrich’s assassination.

Scripted by French director Jimenez, Audrey Diwan, and British screenwriter David Farr (Hanna), the film opens in dour mood in the run up to the car journey in Kiel where Heydrich (Clarke) was court-martialed and rejected by the army for his sexual misconduct. After his marriage to his then girlfriend, Lina (Pike) he starts to flesh out as an increasingly draconian and ambivalent tyrant in tense and confrontational domestic scenes with his wife and during his professional duties as the Nazi party takes shape in onset of WWII.

The film flips back and forth incorporating photo montage and building considerable tension and feelings of unease as we witness Heydrich’s strict surface persona as a ‘family man’ and respectable officer to his uncontrolled and violent side that frequently often breaks out leading to his nickname “the man with the iron heart”. At first, Lina appears to have the upper hand, having saved his career and agreed to bestow her bounties on him. But she is gradually diminished by his psychopathic personality into a confused and alienated woman. And this is also a reflection of how wives fared under Nazism. The second half feels looser and far more underwritten with the characters of Jan (O’Connell/Anthropoid), and his Czech colleague, Jozef (Jack Reynor/Sing Street), who arrive in Prague to prepare for their mission, abetted by their Resistance colleagues, including Mia Wasikowska as a love interest. There are scenes of cruel brutality, with children being threatened and families taking cynanide tablets as Guillaume Roussel’s rousing score plays up the emotional bits leading up to the final coruscating showdown in the church where Czechs thrillingly give it their all to a mortifying finale. And Despite the strange dichotomy of its two halves and changes in tone, Jimenez pulls it all off with panache. THE MAN WITH THE IRON HEART is a highly entertaining and intelligent film and deeply affecting. MT








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