Life & Culture

Operation Mincemeat film review: 'This is the spy story we’ve been waiting for.'

Based on a true story, this Second World War drama is full of exciting twists


Operation Mincemeat: Archery Pictures. STARRING: MATTHEW MACFADYEN as Charles Cholmondeley, COLIN FIRTH as Ewen Montagu

Cert: 12A | ★★★★✩

Shakespeare In Love director John Madden presents an engaging war-time drama in his latest film. Starring Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Matthew Macfadyen (Succession) and Jason Isaacs (The Death Of Stalin), Operation Mincemeat is based on Ben Macintyre’s book of the same name and tells the unlikely, yet true story of one of the most daring deception operations of WW2. .

The year is 1943. The Allied forces are determined to break Hitler’s grip over Europe as they plan to launch an assault on Nazi-occupied Sicily. Encouraged by the success of the Allied code-breaking operation at Bletchley Park, Prime Minister Churchill and Admiral John Godfrey (Isaacs) enlist the help of Ewen Montagu (Firth), a barrister whose wife has had to flee to America with their children. Interestingly, the wife here is Jewish, but no mention is made of the Jewishness of Montagu himself. Another helper is Charles Cholmondeley (Macfadyen), a bright yet reserved RAF flight lieutenant grieving the loss of his own brother in battle.

Montagu and Cholmondeley plan to acquire an unclaimed dead body from the city morgue and use it to fool German forces into believing that the Allies would be invading Greece and Sardinia, rather than Sicily. Later the duo enlists the help of government employee Jean (Kelly Macdonald) to help build a fake identity for the corpse, as the body is to be set up with fake papers to mislead the Nazis.

Bolstered by thrilling performances from an inspired cast, Operation Mincemeat does exactly what is expected from it. Madden and screenwriter Michelle Ashford lead us through London’s smoky private members’ clubs, dance halls and jazz clubs populated by a rowdy mixed crowd of resilient Londoners, young and old.

There is a lot to enjoy about this gorgeously layered slice of WW2 history, even if some of the more romantic elements feel far-fetched. Still, Madden has given us a deftly executed drama full of exciting twists and turns. This is the spy story we’ve been waiting for.

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