By Jasper Price, Third year, Theatre and Performance
Colin Firth triumphs in this star-studded tale of deception and ingenuity set in the shadowy world of wartime espionage. Packed with wit and humour, the film delivers a perfectly charming account of a much untold true story, one that certainly deserves to be told.
In recent years, there has been what seems like a surge in the number of wartime spy films, The Imitation Game (2014), Darkest Hour (2017) and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) to name but a few. All these releases come in a similar format. Take several well-known English actors, dress them in tweed and add in a touch of quirky British eccentricity for good measure. As more about our recent history is explored, so too are the weird and wonderful stories that were deemed classified for so many years. And so here we have another for the pile.
John Madden presents Operation Mincemeat, the true tale of a daring MI5 mission to lead the Nazis estray, by making them think an invasion in Sicily was actually going to happen in Greece. The operation team, headed up by the stern but humorous Ewen Montague (played by Colin Firth) and the awkward and over explaining Charles Cholmondeley (Mathew MacFayden) planned to drop a corpse carrying fake documents off the coast of Spain in the hopes that the invasion “plans” would find their way to Berlin, thus the roose would succeed.
Helping them in this task was a strong and varied cast including Johnny Flynn, Kelly McDonald, Jason Issacs and Penelope Wilton. Flynn, playing the debonair bond author Ian Fleming, also served as the narrator of the film, with Flynn’s classic British purr guiding us through the plot line.
From the team picking a suitable corpse, to inventing a life for the deceased man and eventually the final operation, the main plot of the film ran with a pace and intensity that I admired. Quick montages of Firth and MacFayden walking through various morgues, choosing the right candidate were fun. So too was the team coming up with this person’s life.
There was a scattering of comedy moments too, like Firth trying to hold the cadaver up on a chair so it could be photographed- with a classic Colin Firth one-liner to follow. When the film got to the main mission, the scenes were tense; again, quick cuts helped here. Jumping from the MI5 operation room to the frontlines and back, it felt like we were part of the action.
The excitement felt with the main plotline was not shared when it came to the multiple subplots which seemed to be yoked onto the film. A tired and clichéd love triangle between Firth, McDonald and MacFadyen was simply not necessary, adding nothing but time to a film which could have lost forty-five minutes quite easily. There was also an unresolved plotline about Montague’s brother, played by Mark Gatiss, possibly being a Russian spy which, again added little. These subplots meant that the main action often felt rushed, as though all these storylines were squeezing the life out of what otherwise would have been a perfectly thrilling story.
McDonald and MacFadyen stole the show for me, with McDonald perfectly capturing the spirit of Jean, a secretary caught between love and war. She showed great depth and approached the role with a subtle confidence. MacFadyen also had a varied performance, from awkward and shy flight lieutenant to a stern and responsible leader. Other notable performances included Jason Issacs as Godfrey, the straight talking commander of the taskforce and Flynn as Fleming, who added a certain wry wit to each scene he was in, although the constant nods to his famous literary creation were a little on the nose at times.
Overall I’d say the film does have something for everyone, and that’s precisely why I can fault it. The film is clearly trying too hard to fit in as much variety as possible, and thereby taking away from the true heart of the movie. We really don’t need more romances in WW2 films. This story speaks for itself and when Madden is giving the audience the through line, his skill shines through and he makes something intriguing and enjoyable.
Featured Image: IMDB
What did you think of the latest WW2 epic?