There are an endless amount of films about World War II. Name a genre and the second World War has had a movie centered within it. So, it’s less about finding a new type of WWII picture to make and more about finding a new story to tell. So, it’s actually kind of interesting to see how Operation Mincemeat could be a very generic war drama, but instead finds a ridiculously unusual moment within the war to depict. Any look at the film without context, or knowing the title, would lead to thinking it’s very much one type of thing. Then, you see the movie or find out what the operation actually is and you realize that it’s very much something else.
Operation Mincemeat takes the standard WWII espionage tale and turns it on its ear a bit. It does so by focusing on essentially a spy mission that doesn’t involve any violence or even a live agent. More on that below, but by placing us in the rooms where these operations are designed, as opposed to where they’re executed, has something to it. While it never rises up to be an awards player or anything of the sort, it’s a largely compelling flick, that’s for sure.
Based on the true story, the year is 1943. Allied forces are hoping to score a big win against Hitler. the Allies have hopes to begin an assault on Sicily, but it appears to be impossible. The Germans would slaughter the invading forces. So, how can they protect a massive invasion force from a potential and even probable massacre? Well, that’s where intelligence officers Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen) come into play. They dream up a wild disinformation campaign, one centered on the least likely secret agent possible…a corpse.
Dubbed Operation Mincemeat, the plan comes together, though not without a substantial amount of skepticism. After all, planting fake plans on a fallen soldier and hoping they end up in the hands of no less than Hitler is quite a gamble. It’s all about subterfuge here, as well as the ensuing tension that comes with. While there are other notable characters, including Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald), and even a romantic subplot, it all comes back to one question…will a dead body fool the Germans?
There’s quite a cast in place here, even if no one quite shines above anyone else. Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen are solid and stoic, while Kelly Macdonald brings a welcome and different energy. Macdonald and Macfadyen are reliable presences, though one can argue that as steady as Firth is, he’s capable of a bit more. Operation Mincemeat also features among its ranks the likes of Jonny Flynn, Mark Gatiss, Rufus Wright, and more. It’s a crew all in service of the final product.
Director John Maddon rewards patience here. While the screenplay by Michelle Ashford (adapting the book) has witty moments, there are also times where Operation Mincemeat can feel on the dry side. So, you do have to wade through some lesser times to get to the highlights. When it’s good, it’s very good, even with inconsistent pacing. Maddon isn’t a flashy director, so it’s all about executing the premise.
Operation Mincemeat is a rock solid option for anyone perusing Netflix or curious to check it out in theaters. It’s unlikely to blow you away, but if you want a different sort of WWII tale, this has got you covered. The film asks you to have patience, but if you give it a chance, there’s a rewarding experience to be found here.