Operation Mincemeat12A¦ Blu-ray, DVD
With films Mrs Brown, Shakespeare in Love and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin back to back in the late nineties/early noughties, director John Madden was on a pretty successful run.
Then things went a little quiet with a few less impressive titles, before returning to helm 2012’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel.
This then, is his first film since 2016’s Miss Sloane, that once again has a historical theme, this time set during WWII.
1943 and Churchill has made a promise to the US that the Allies will take Sicily, as a way of making inroads into Europe. The problem is, the island is seen as an obvious target for Hitler to send his troops, which would then make it a hot area for confrontation that the Allies could do without.
But when RAF officer Charles Chomondeley (Matthew Macfayden) suggests Trojan Horse, a way of deceiving the Germans into thinking the Brits have other plans, Churchill gives them the thumbs up to explore it further.
With the help of Lt. Commander Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth), his loyal secretary Hester Legget (Penelope Wilton) and smart, savvy secretary Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald), they fashion together an extraordinary story, which if the Germans buy it, could help give them a huge advantage in the war.
But could the operation, renamed Mincemeat, come across as authentic enough to fool the Germans?
It’s amazing how many of these fascinating stories regarding the war there are, that eventually pop up. Surely we must be reaching a point of exhausting them by now? This one is a corker though, only let down by a script that wants to do too much.
If ever there is a film that feels like it’s been padded out to the hilt, it’s this one. It’s as if Brit Madden didn’t feel that the operation itself was enough to hold an audience’s attention, so added some rather dull subplots to pad it out.
The main one is that of a blossoming romance between Montagu and Leslie; it may well have happened but it’s simply superfluous to the plot. Madden relies on it so much that it feels like it dominates more than the main story itself, which is a shame, as the mechanics of the operation are fascinating. After all, these illicit love stories are a dime a dozen, the same can’t be said for audacious war operations.
A smaller subplot is that of Montagu’s brother Ivor, played by Mark Gatiss, being discussed as being a spy for the Russians, but it’s never really explored in any detail.
There’s also the fact that a certain Lt. Cdr Ian Fleming – yes the author of the James Bond books – is involved in this plot too, but again isn’t in the forefront. This is more acceptable however, as his story could obviously outshine all the others, so it’s more of an intriguing cameo more than anything else.
It’s a well crafted feature, as you would expect from someone with the talent of Madden, but certainly more could have been made of the operation itself, it’s just a shame it doesn’t feature more as the main ingredient.