Of all the harebrained Allied schemes to defeat the Nazis, this takes the cake

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | May 12, 2022

Operation Mincemeat
On Now
3 out of 5

If American WWII films are all about the battle, British war films infuse the narrative with character study, which elevates them above the fray — so much so, that Hollywood doesn’t even try to compete anymore (remember Midway [2019]? It’s okay. Nobody does.)

Operation Mincemeat recreates a 1943 spy operation that tricked the Germans into abandoning their defensive position in Sicily to focus on Greece. How did the Allies pull it off? By dressing a random male corpse in fatigues, and dumping the body near the Spanish coast with a fake identity and briefcase of documents suggesting the Allies’ true plan was to invade Greece with only a feint attack at Sicily.

Operation Mincemeat explores everything that could possibly have gone wrong with the plan. But it dedicates an inordinate amount of time to the Twenty Committee, the brain trust behind the undertaking — and their romantic entanglements.

The head of the operation, intelligence officer Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth, The King’s Speech), is separated from his wife and falls for MI5 clerk Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald), who is recruited to play the dead man’s girlfriend. But Jean has also caught the attention of second in command Lt. Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen, Pride & Prejudice). Will the sexual tension hinder the already delicate operation?

To add extra bon mots to the already packed spy flick, Johnny Flynn (Emma) is at hand as Ian Fleming, who back then was in the British army, and was an adjutant to the Twenty Committee. The film gives him increasingly cheesy 007-like lines to deliver — to the presumed delight of Bond fans everywhere.

Before you say ‘Wait a minute, wasn’t this already covered by the 1956 film The Man Who Never Was?’ Yes and no. The story is the same, but includes declassified material from the early aughts. Generally well acted, and impeccably directed and produced by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), Operation Mincemeat won’t change your life. But it’s pleasant enough to watch.