Film Review: Operation Mincemeat
Director: John Madden
Cast: Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Penelope Wilton, Johnny Flynn, Jason Isaacs, Simon Russell Beale, Paul Ritter, Mark Gatiss, Nicholas Rowe
Running Time: 128
Australian Distributor: Transmission Films
Operation Mincemeat tells the strange but true story of an elaborate scheme that was formulated by British Intelligence during the Second World War in a bid to fool the Nazis into believing that they were invading Greece, and not their intended target of Sicily. It stars Colin Firth along with a host of well known British talent who are all adept at displaying their very best stiff upper lip.
Firth plays Ewen Montagu, who we first meet as he prepares to bid an emotional farewell to his wife and children, who are all heading off to live in the much safer United States. Left alone in the house with brother Ivor (Mark Gatiss), Montagu is now free to undertake a very top secret operation, teaming up with Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen), Ian Fleming (yes, the future creator of James Bond, played by Johnny Flynn), Hester Leggett (Penelope Wilton) and Jean Leslie (Kelly MacDonald) in order to begin formulating their plan of Nazi deception.
At its most basic level, that plan involves a dead body being dropped into the water off the coast of Spain, with fake documents about his person which describe the intention of the British to invade Greece, in the hope that those plans work their way up the Nazi chain of command. At a more complex level, and to ensure that the deception is as effective as possible, the team spend many weeks coming up with an elaborate backstory for the fictitious “Capt William Martin”, which includes a fake love letter and photograph supplied by Jean.
It’s during these earlier sections of the movie, when the elaborate intricacies of the plan are formulated, that Operation Mincemeat is at its most enjoyable. From setting up ways of knowing if sealed papers have been opened once they are returned to the British, to trying to photograph the dead body so that the photos can be used for his ID paperwork, the entertainment comes from following the plan as it develops, much like a heist movie.
Once the plan has received the go ahead from Churchill (Simon Russell Beale) and the body has been dumped at sea, it’s simply a matter of waiting and hoping for things to successfully run their course so that the papers find their way to the German leader responsible for redeploying their troops. And that’s where Operation Mincemeat loses momentum somewhat. There’s the odd moment of tension, where unforeseen problems threaten to derail the plan, but otherwise it’s a lengthy waiting game. To fill the time, some rather flimsy character points introduced earlier on have the chance to play out – Ewen’s brother, who may or may not be a spy, and the blossoming relationship between Ewen and Jean.
Overall, Operation Mincemeat is an adequate, fairly enjoyable war drama, bolstered by a very good cast and the true nature of the story it portrays.
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