Directed by: John Madden
Premise: Based on true events. During World War II, British intelligence officers hatch a plan to convince Nazi Germany that the Allied forces intend to invade Greece when in fact they plan to land in Sicily.
What Works: Operation Mincemeat dramatizes true events from World War II in which British intelligence plotted to put fabricated invasion plans into the hands of the Nazis and therefore throw off the Axis’ response. The plan is compelling and the film is at its best when it focuses on the details. The British have to put these plans in the path of the Nazis in a way that guarantees the Germans will take the bait but without being so obvious as to tip their hand. Creating that illusion is very difficult with the British second guessing their plans. Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen play Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondely, a pair of British officers assigned to work out the details. Part of the plot requires creating a fictional but convincing backstory for the messenger and Ewen and Charles bring in Jean Leslie, played by Kelly Macdonald, to works out the details. The backstory they create speaks to the struggles of their wartime lives and the fictional persona they’ve conjured takes on a life of its own. The film’s supporting characters includes Ian Fleming, the future novelist and creator of James Bond. Fleming is constantly writing and the film includes nods to 007 and Fleming’s novels but does so in a way that’s mostly organic and rewarding to James Bond fans without coming across forced or obnoxious.
What Doesn’t: Operation Mincemeat includes some relationship subplots that really drag especially a romantic triangle between Ewen, Charles, and Jean. A romantic triangle only works if it presents the woman with a vivid dilemma and starkly different choices. There is no romantic heat between the three characters and very little differentiation between the two men. They are both bland romantic prospects and there’s no drama to this woman’s choice. This relationship drama takes up the screentime that could be better spent on more interesting subplots. The film entertains some of the complex political allegiances in Spain and acknowledges the plot among senior Nazi officials to assassinate Hitler but little is done with this. Operation Mincemeat tends to be dramatically muted. The filmmakers manage some tension in the very end but it’s short lived. We’re told about the stakes of the operation but they are rarely realized in the film.
DVD extras: On Netflix.
Bottom Line: Operation Mincemeat is an acceptable World War II drama. It gets bogged down in some uninteresting melodrama but the movie’s main purpose is to dramatize the titular intelligence operation and that part is compelling enough.
Episode: #906 (June 19, 2021)