Operation Mincemeat

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Operation Mincemeat
dir John Madden
scr Michelle Ashford
prd Iain Canning, Charles S Cohen, Emile Sherman, Kris Thykier
with Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Penelope Wilton, Johnny Flynn, Jason Isaacs, Simon Russell Beale, Alex Jennings, Mark Gatiss, Lorne MacFadyen, Hattie Morahan, Mark Bonnar
release UK 15.Apr.22,
US 6.May.22
21/UK 2h08

macfadyen macdonald wilton

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A comical flair reflects the absurdity of this astonishing true story from World War II, recounted as a crowd-pleasing adventure with an A-list cast and first-rate production values. Centred around an elaborate deception, the script loses a couple of its plot threads in the shuffle, but the story gets increasingly riveting as things come together. And by the end, there's a proper sense of momentousness in the narrative.
In 1943, the British military is trying to throw Germany off the scent as it plans a major invasion in Sicily, so intelligence officers Ewen and Charles (Firth and Macfadyen) come up with a crazy plan that involves planting false documents on a corpse that washes up on a Spanish beach. Working with Jean and Hester (Macdonald and Wilton), plus a young Ian Fleming (Flynn), they convince dubious Admiral Godfrey (Isaacs) to launch the operation. Then as they create a whole identity for this deceased young man, their imaginations threaten to get away from them.
Balancing the wartime tension, a superb blast of humour infuses the characters and situations. Some of this is to deflect from the high-stakes operation, but it also offers insight that makes these people easy to identify with events spiral around them. Each has personal issues that feed into the bigger story, and it's perhaps realistic that some never quite come into focus, such as Ewen's brother (Gatiss), who's suspected of being a Communist spy. Or Charles' crush on Jean.

Playing frightfully posh characters, the talented actors remain superbly understated, making sure that they sparkle with personality and include deeper emotional undercurrents. The standout is Macfadyen as the likeable, intelligent Charles, with his engaging heart-on-sleeve approach. His personal journey has a nice kick, even as it remains in the film's margins. Firth ably anchors the story as the tenacious Ewen, compartmentalising his personal issues to help change the course of the war. Both Macdonald and Wilton have strong presence as brightly inventive team members.

Madden directs with a steady pace, building tension without resorting to pointless action cliches. The strongest moments take place in offices under Whitehall, as the group worries that their insane plan relies on vagaries of fate. It's fun to watch Flynn's Fleming taking everything in, nodding to how this inspired him to create James Bond less than a decade later. Amd perhaps best of all is how the film highlights a little-known but pivotal point in the war and celebrates an unexpected hero.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 1.Dec.21

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall