Operation: Daybreak (1975) starring Timothy Bottoms, Martin Shaw, Joss Ackland, Nicola Pagett, Anthony Andrews, Anton Diffring directed by Lewis Gilbert Movie Review

Operation: Daybreak (1975)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Anthony Andrews and Timothy Bottoms in Operation: Daybreak (1975)

Accuracy of an Assassin

"Operation: Daybreak" looks like your typical war movie with it being based on a real mission and with it being made in the 70s it looks like one where the focus will be on delivering action. Yet "Operation: Daybreak" took me by surprise because whilst flawed it is more than just an action movie and like some good war movies it sparks an interest to discover the truth about the story it is based upon. So if you see "Operation: Daybreak" appear on the schedule and think it's just another war movie where there is a mission to assassinate a high up German Officer think again because it evolves into something much more powerful.

Now "Operation: Daybreak" is a movie of two halves with the first half being if you like stereotypical and expected as we watch a trio of soldiers parachute in to Czechoslovakia on a mission to assassinate SS-General Reinhard Heydrich, the Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia as he is as feared as Hitler. What follows is their meeting with allies, their planning and after one failed attempt we get the actual assassination attempt as they try to gun him down in his open top car. I say actual because there is much more to it than just being shot and we get a series of very powerful scenes. But as I already said this is all the elements that you expect to be in "Operation: Daybreak" and whilst for the most good are nothing out of the ordinary.

Martin Shaw as Karel Curda in Operation: Daybreak (1975)

But then "Operation: Daybreak" is a movie of two halves and it is in the aftermath of the assassination attempt that it develops into something of a surprise. First up we get the sickening reprisals from the Nazi's as they are determined to catch those involved in the assassination attempt and we see the village of Liditz flattened because the Nazi's believed they assisted in harbouring the assassins and it is sickening to watch. But we also get what is basically the selling out of the assassins as the pressure of the situation gets too much for one of them and he hands himself in looking to make a deal. What follows is as sickening as watching Liditz destroyed as the movie ends with what amounts to a massacre in a church. If any movie demonstrated the wasted of life it is "Operation: Daybreak" in these final scenes which trust me are not only powerful but also action packed.

Now I am no historian but again I find myself watching an older war movie and finding myself sparked into wanting to know more, the truth of the assassination attempt and what followed and it is fascinating. What is also fascinating is that whilst "Operation: Daybreak" unsurprisingly takes some poetic licence with the facts the basic storyline is true to what happened, following closer to the truth than many movies. Again this is a movie which for me makes the point that movies should be used in the teaching of history because I learned more watching this than from a text book and it encouraged me to want to learn more.

Now whilst there are various flaws with "Operation: Daybreak" my only real negative is when it comes to the acting and characters because it is surprisingly nondescript. There is no stand out performance, no character which commands your attention and whilst that may make it more realistic it also makes it a bit dull. It's probably just me but I would have loved to see Timothy Bottoms, Anthony Andrews or Martin Shaw really own the movie and give us a central character to focus on.

What this all boils down to is that "Operation: Daybreak" is a much better movie that I expected and it goes from delivering us what you expect to delivering something much more as we have the aftermath of an assassination mission. It is flawed and at times a bit of a slog but it is both entertaining and fascinating and will spark an interest to find out about the real mission known as "Operation Anthropoid".