Any good scheme needs time to bake…
In theatres today for a limited run before it hits Netflix on May 1tth; Operation Mincemeat works well enough as a slice history that we haven’t seen before as we get a glimpse of what fighting a war on the home front looks like.
It’s 1943. The Allies are determined to break Hitler’s grip on occupied Europe, and plan an all-out assault on Sicily; but they face an impossible challenge – how to protect a massive invasion force from potential massacre. It falls to two remarkable intelligence officers, Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen) to dream the most inspired and improbable disinformation strategy of the war – centred on the most unlikely of secret agents: a dead man. Operation Mincemeat is the extraordinary and true story of an idea that hoped to alter the course of the war – defying logic, risking countless thousands of lives, and testing the nerves of its creators to breaking point.
Ultimately; Operation Mincemeat plays much quieter than expected here as it’s a drama about the work and the fight against suspicion at home as much as it’s about finding a way to strike a blow with the Nazi in roads In Europe.
The film drops us into a time period where the war isn’t going all that well and to say that people aren’t at ease would be an understatement, but that’s what made director John Madden who you might remember from films like Shakespeare In Love and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel such a great choice to tell this story.
Madden isn’t a storyteller to hit us with flourishes; dramatic or otherwise and we slowly slide into the realities of the time. Everyone is on edge, and the reality of the Third Reich walking through the halls of Buckingham Palace wasn’t all that far-fetched. It’s tension that is worn in the characters as this where the real work of the story lies.
Obviously the production design and the flow of it all is solid but Madden and the script from writer Michelle Ashford (working from the book by Ben Macintyre) allows these characters to have some genuine human flaws to them as we see their humanity; warts and all with a little bit of levity.
Colin Firth is his usual indomitable self as Ewen Montagu. Called into service when his country needed him but having to cope with the pain of sending his wife and kids away due to their Jewish heritage wore on him in a solid performance as he coped with the realities around him. Matthew Macfadyen played well off him as the more idealistic officer involved with this scheme they were cooking up, while Kelly McDonald’s character provided hope for the future as Penelope Wilton as the stern Hester Leggett brought a grounded sensibility. Even Jason Isaacs got to chew the scenery as a hard-nosed Admiral and Johnny Flynn provided a little levity as Ian Fleming (yes THAT Ian Fleming) as the narrative provided flourishes to not only the department that they were working in trying to concoct a devise ruse for the Germans, but the future James Bond novels and films that are still delighting audiences today.
At the end of it all, Operation Mincemeat actually plays pretty quietly from top to bottom. That’s actually where its strength lies as true spy craft and trade back in those days tended to happen in dusty under lit basements and not via car chases and martini drinking icons.
Operation Mincemeat is in select theatres like the Paradise here in Toronto today, and it goes wide on Netflix on May 11th.
- Release Date: 5/11/2022