Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 8 minutes, Director – John Madden
A team of British intelligence officers put together a false identity for a dead corpse with fake documents that they hope will divert the Nazis from their upcoming attack.
Perhaps one of the signs that a film such as Operation Mincemeat is working effectively is when it’s able to conjure up tension even though you know (or can generally presume) how things are going to happen. The Allies won World War II, this story is being told in the first place, you can assume that it succeeds. Yet, as the group are properly preparing their dead body to literally float into enemy hands, looking over the work that they have compiled and poured over the details of for months on end, there’s a sense of worry. What if things don’t go right? What if everything is returned without having been opened or looked at? ‘Everything’ in this case being a series of fake letters and documents written in the hope of distracting the Nazis to Greece instead of remaining in Sicily, where an attack will hopefully be launched.
The group behind this operation, having to meticulously create a false identity, relationship and series of exchanges to seem like the identity claimed to the corpse is real, is racing against the clock, and indeed a group who don’t see much in their plan. Led by Colin Firth’s Ewen Montagu and Matthew Macfadyen’s traditional, stiff-upper-lip Charles Cholmondeley the team behind Operation Mincemeat meet difficulties and obstructions within the fable that they weave. Not just when it comes to their core goal, with the presence of Kelly Macdonald’s Jean Leslie, typist turned key player in the effort, something of a slight love triangle forms between her and the two leads. It’s an idea that never really clicks or takes off the ground, feeling more at home with a selection of third act inclusions, or at least points in the latter half of the piece, where things are introduced with little time for further mention, or development. Feeling present to simply add to the worries and stresses certain characters face, not always properly connecting with the audience.
They stick out in a film that otherwise feels mostly focused on its core narrative of the Operation Mincemeat arc. There are occasional points for an underused Johnny Flynn’s Ian Fleming – whose screen-time largely revolves around the idea of him getting inspirations for his series of spy stories, a successful running gag involves it seeming as if everyone is currently working on a novel of some kind. The ensemble nature of the film, with a handful of British acting stars, does somewhat bring about the feeling of a standard British behind-closed-doors World War II drama, something which is present during a number of moments within the unfolding narrative. It mostly arrives in the second half as various twists and turns are explored late on, and Jason Isaacs Admiral Godfrey begins to play more of a part, although more in discussion than actually being seen.
With such points coming into play at this stage the film begins to show its run-time, although as it begins to come to a close. Perhaps this is pushed by the feeling that it wants to close at a handful of stages, and builds to what feels like an ending, but continues so that the whole story is told, as it needs to be. It forms a slightly jumbled feel to the third act, which while still relatively on track and engaging does carry a fair bit more weight than the rest of the film before it; where much of the references have simply been that, referenced points with not as much emphasis or push until now. Despite this late stage set of additions there’s still enough focus on the main unfolding operation to keep the audience engaged and interested in the way things pan out, particularly for those unaware of the events. It’s a good British war drama that generally keeps its flow throughout and is helped along by a set of good performances from the ensemble cast.
Slightly overstuffed towards the end Operation Mincemeat still keeps focus on its titular operation to keep the viewer engaged and interested within the well-acted events as the unfold over the course of the, slightly lengthy, run-time.