REVIEW: ‘Operation Mincemeat’ An Unbelievable Moment in History

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Operation Mincemeat - But Why Tho

Operation Mincemeat releases on Netflix this week, and it’s a fascinating movie based on true events that occur during World War II. What takes place during this period left me well and truly shell shocked. What is most surprising about this film, however, was learning as much as I did about the inspiration behind the James Bond book series and the author that came to pen them. If I’ve gotten your attention with that curious link, then follow me into a film that boasts a twisted tale of espionage at the highest levels.

Directed by John Madden (think Shakespeare in Love, not NFL), Operation Mincemeat tells the story of a group of British intelligence officers during World War II tasked by Winston Churchill (Simon Russell Beale) to deceive Hitler and the Nazis into believing they would be invading Greece, when in fact their real target was Sicily (an island just off the south-west coast of Italy). Victory here would ensure the allied forces firm footing on Europe’s shores and possibly turn the tide of the war.

The synopsis alone for this film immediately hooked my attention. I’m not a particularly big history buff by any means, but upon hearing the fantastical nature of this plot I was stunned into believing that this was a real-life event, and yet, there’s so much more to this story. The film is led by Colin Firth (Ewen Montagu), Matthew Macfadyen (Charles Cholmondeley), Kelly Macdonald (Jean Leslie), Penelope Wilton (Hester Leggett), and Johnny Flynn (Ian Fleming). Yes, the actual Ian Fleming who was the creator, and author of the most well-known fictional British secret agent, James bloody Bond.

Fleming worked for British intelligence before becoming a successful author, and during the period the film is set in he helped create the “Trout Memo” that detailed a variety of elaborate and deceptive plans to fool Hitler and Germany to relocate their troops. Operation Mincemeat delightfully drops in multiple easter eggs to show some of the inspiration behind Fleming’s billion-dollar idea. What’s enjoyable about it is that they’re more tidbits for you to find rather than shoe-horned in, and those moments are extremely relevant to the plan at hand. Flynn serves as a partial narrator to the story, and his delivery and cadence add a real gravitas to the moment.

There’s a level of real suspense felt in knowing that these events truly transpired in history, and given I knew nothing about this, I felt gripped by the tension of the plot as the success of the war hangs in the balance. The sequences depicting the moments of true espionage were brought to life superbly, yet I found myself wanting more of this. However, Madden instead chooses to focus on the more human elements of the lead characters by devoting time to exploring their interactions so you can relate to them on a more personal level as a way to feel engaged with the larger plot.

That choice is met with a mixed reception because while it’s important to note these were real people putting their lives in danger to serve their country, there are quite a few moments that derail the tone and the pace of the film. The two-hour run time does feel leggy in parts due to this, but it’s worth sticking through because this is a really enjoyable film.

Firth delivers a performance that, if you’ve seen him in any film at all, feels similar to most of his prior roles. With that being said, it works within the context of this story, and he’s aided by the conflict introduced through Macfadyen. The acting throughout is very dry and expected given the severity of the situation and the period it’s set.

Operation Mincemeat is an incredibly thrilling watch if not for the simple fact that this audacious event actually occurred during the second world war. It’s a sobering moment when the fate of the free world hinged on a ludicrous plan to deceive Hitler of a fake invasion. The character interactions can feel drawn out, and slow the overall pace of the film, but the espionage of it all is highly compelling. Fans of spycraft, especially Bond, will absolutely love this film.

Operation Mincemeat is available exclusively on Netflix Wednesday, May 11th.

Author

  • Aaron is a contributing writer at But Why Tho, serving as a reviewer for TV and Film. He is also the co-host and social media manager of the Nerds Social Club podcast. Hailing originally from England, and after some lengthy questing, he's currently set up shop in Pennsylvania. He spends his days reading comics, podcasting, and being attacked by his small offspring.


Operation Mincemeat
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Operation Mincemeat is an incredibly thrilling watch if not for the simple fact that this audacious event actually occurred during the second world war. It’s a sobering moment when the fate of the free world hinged on a ludicrous plan to deceive Hitler of a fake invasion. The character interactions can feel drawn out, and slow the overall pace of the film, but the espionage of it all is highly compelling. Fans of spycraft, especially Bond, will absolutely love this film.

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