Operation Mincemeat is a true story of spy craft and subterfuge by British operatives at the height of the second World War. Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) has been appointed to the secret cabal known as the Twenty Committee—a group overseeing counterespionage activities. Partnered with Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen), the two men beginning plotting a risky scheme to make Nazi Germany believe that the UK’s next target is Greece when in fact they intend to invade Sicily. Working with Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald) and Hester Leggett (Penelope Wilton), the team comes up with a preposterous idea and what happens from there is almost stranger than fiction.
What works in Operation Mincemeat is the blend of tension with light comedy and the historical accuracy. Director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) leverages the remarkable talent at his disposal to tell a story ripe with thrills. For the plan to succeed a lot depends on anticipation, luck, and improvisation and the tone of the film captures the natural intensity of these moments. At the same time, Madden acknowledges the aspects of the operation that are by all accounts absurd by having some fun with the tale: the occasional joke about how everyone seems to be writing a spy novel, or characters playing the role of audience surrogate by bluntly questioning the probability of success.
Often times the recounting of events must be done with some degree of dramatic license such as condensing timelines, creating amalgamations from multiple real people, or adding false friction between characters. Operation Mincemeat does none of this. A check into the facts reveals that nearly every aspect of Madden’s film appears to be accurate, mostly likely because the majority of the narrative comes directly from Montagu’s own book chronicling his time on the Twenty Committee. This makes Operation Mincemeat all the more enjoyable and easier to appreciate the ingenuity and bravery of those involved.
People who don’t enjoy slow burn dramas may not appreciate Operation Mincemeat as much as others. For a film set during World War II, there is very little action instead relying on dialogue and character development to propel the narrative. In fact, the film purposely slows the tempo down on many occasions as some of the players wax poetic about their situation or wonder aloud about their fate. Individuals expecting a more adventurous tale may find themselves slightly bored.
Operation Mincement is a fantastic entry into the spy drama genre. It brings to light a fantastical story through the work of excellent performances, a strong script, and solid pacing. Very much worth a watch.
You can find Operation Mincemeat on Netflix.