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Operation Mincemeat ★★★

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Directed: John Madden

Cast: Colin Firth, Jason Isaacs, Matthew Macfadyen, Hattie Morahan, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Johnny Flynn, Mark Gatiss, Kelly Macdonald, Simon Russell Beale, Paul Ritter

Released: April 15, 2022 (UK)

The grand British filmmaking tradition of Second World War cinema continues to grow. After the roaring success of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk comes another attempt from Warner Brothers with Operation Mincemeat, directed by John Madden. Perhaps a story that not all audiences are aware of but is quite a fascinating element of the events during a formidable chapter in history.

It’s 1943, and the Allies are determined to break Hitler’s grip on occupied Europe and plan an all-out assault on Sicily. Still, they face an impossible challenge – how to protect a massive invasion force from potential massacre. It falls to two remarkable intelligence officers, Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen), to dream the most inspired and improbable disinformation strategy of the war – centred on the most unlikely of secret agents: a dead man.

Operation Mincemeat shines a light on such a peculiarly vital moment in history. While it’s quite an intriguing tale, it never exceeds the level of other historical British films. There is an irregular rhythm to the narrative along with a bizarre romantical element that was somewhat unnecessary, but the quaint stiff upper lip sense of Britishness is what makes it an intriguing experience.

The ambience of it all is full of fear and dread without having to show you the horrors of war. Most audiences who will see the film will be fully aware of this dreaded period. Director John Madden utilises this dreary tone to his advantage as the heavy dialogue of the narrative keeps the energy alive.

The calibre of acting on display here is of the highest standard, where the strength of Madden’s film lies. Colin Firth’s stiff upper lip approach fits the aesthetic, and his line delivery is powerful and, at times, quite moving. Matthew Macfadyen engrosses himself within this performance, and it seems as if working with Firth upped his game. There are some tremendous moments where they are simply talking, and quintessentially this is what British cinema can deliver. The addition of Johnny Flynn as Ian Fleming surprised me as I did not know of Fleming’s involvement. Flynn’s performance felt like a mini-prequel to what would follow for the author of 007.

Operation Mincemeat will satisfy anyone intrigued with the Second World War, but it never fully unleashes its potential. It’s a well-executed tale, but it needed more refinement and balance.

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