VOD film review: Operation Mincemeat
James R | On 02, Jun 2022
Director: John Madden
Cast: Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Jason Isaacs, Kelly Macdonald, Johnny Flynn
Operation Mincemeat. Even the name of the top secret wartime operation gives you an idea of just how strange-but-true it was. In 1943, with the Allies looking to catch a break against Hitler’s forces in Europe, a planned move into Sicily is in danger of being thwarted before it even gets off the ground. And so a plot begins to create an elaborate decoy using a dead body dressed up like an officer but carrying misinformation to distract the Nazis.
It’s the kind of outlandish thing straight out of a spy caper, so it’s perhaps no surprise that a couple of years ago it was turned into a musical that proved a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe and captured just the right level of absurdity involved. This more straight-faced account pales in comparison, but nonetheless finds success in evoking the suspense inherent to trying to pull off such an unlikely mission. Based on the non-fiction book by Michelle Ashford, the script enjoys playing stiff-lipped Brits off against each other, as the authorities – Jason Isaacs as Admiral John Godfrey – are sceptical of the idea cooked up by Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen) and Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth).
Macfadyen and Firth form a likeable double act as the two intelligence officers, who end up bringing on board widowed secretary Jean (Kelly Macdonald), after she volunteers a photo of herself to go in the dead body’s pocket as a fictitious fiancee. A love triangle ensues that gives a welcome human edge to what is a fairly dry affair, and the film’s treatment of “Major William Martin” has a surprisingly warm compassion. All the while, Johnny Flynn steals scenes as Lieutenant Commander Ian Fleming, who helps to plan the operation and provides a knowing narration – a small reminder of the kind of spark that the film occasionally needs.