Film Review: Operation Mincemeat (2021)

The incredible-but-true story of Operation Mincemeat makes for a different take on the British war film, still stuffed with stiff upper lips though

“In any story, if it’s a good story, there is that which is seen, and that which is hidden”

An instance of theatre being ahead of the curve, many fans of musical theatre will be largely au fait with the plot of Operation Mincemeat since Split Lip’s riotous adaptation has been doing the rounds for a couple of years now. But for those unfamiliar, this was a WWII operation by the British to dump a corpse bearing false documents behind enemy lines in order to secure the Allied invasion of Sicily, as you do.

This cinematic version is based on the book Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre with a screenplay by Michelle Ashford and directed by John Madden, with a clear view for his typical audience (his CV includes Shakespeare in Love and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel). Which isn’t a slight at all, that kinda old-fashioned fare is frequently my jam, it’s just a point of difference to the anarchic theatrical take previously mentioned.  

So the vibe is definitely one of Bank Holiday/Sunday afternoon viewing, as Colin Firth’s Ewen Montagu and Matthew Macfadyen’s Charles Cholmondeley come up with the audacious scheme to deceive Hitler and his intelligence division. A tightly starched love triangle comes into play with Kelly Macdonald’s Jean Leslie, whose photo is used to help build a convincing back story for the ‘soldier’ that is being ‘deployed’. 

But there’s more fun around the fringes. Penelope Wilton gives some of her best work in ages as secretary Hester Leggett who is responsible for the emotional highlight and Johnny Flynn plays intelligence officer Ian Fleming who was to later use his experiences in creating James Bond. The execution of the mission is very well done, full of twists and turns, but the would-be romance brings a sedateness that works against it. Enjoyable viewing still but if the musical comes back, I’d go see that. 

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