Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre review: A fun spy caper
James R | On 07, Apr 2023
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett, Hugh Grant, Cary Elwes, Bugzy Malone
Between Wrath of Man and The Gentlemen, Guy Ritchie has had something of a return to his roots in recent years, as the director recaptures some of the wise-cracking, action-packing thrills of his earlier work. His latest, Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre, sits almost exactly between his last two, veering away from the serious, muscular drive of the former and leaning into the blokey comedy of the latter. The result is as uneven as them both, but no less entertaining.
Reuniting with Jason Statham after Wrath of Man, the film follows Orson Fortune (Statham), a spy who’s regularly hired by the British government – specifically, the dry, sardonic Nathan (Cary Elwes) and the gruff, bureaucratic Knighton (Eddie Marsan). His latest job? To track down The Handle, a high-tech device that a group of Ukrainian gangsters have stolen. If that choice of villain seems poorly thought through, the rest of the film is the precise opposite, with the script (co-written by Ritchie with Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson) overthinking every line of dialogue to almost painfully clunky effect. Nobody can speak without attempting a one-liner, retort or deliberately risque remark, to the point where it almost borders on a parody of Guy Ritchie rather than the real thing.
Fortunately, though, Ritchie’s assembled an impressive cast to deliver the material. Cary Elwes enjoys the chance to play deadpan in a rare central role, while Jason Statham is just the right mix of flippant and intimidating to make his wine-snob secret agent a likeable, if cartoonish, figure. He’s a far cry from Ethan Hunt, but the film knows what it is, skewing closer to The Man from Uncle even as it fails to hit the high bar of that globe-trotting caper. It has, however, brought along one its key players in the form of Hugh Grant, who is clearly having a ball as dodgy arms dealer Greg Simmons, pitched somewhere between Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast and Michael Caine in The Italian Job.
To infiltrate Greg’s inner circle, Orson teams up with his favourite actor, Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), who has to play himself and take Orson’s number two, Sarah (Aubrey Plaza), as his fake girlfriend. Plaza walks away with the whole show, elevating each scene she’s in with catty humour and devil-may-care physicality. At the helm, meanwhile, Ritchie still knows how to confidently deliver a set piece, and things move quickly and slickly so the occasionally stodgy screenplay can be frequently forgotten. A return to roots, then, more than a return to form, but Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre is fun enough to mean that a return for the potential franchise wouldn’t be unwelcome.