Operation Mincemeat — When It Stays Focused, It’s Great Viewing
Last night I had the great opportunity (thanks to my Unlimited membership at Cineworld) to sit in an early screening of “Operation Mincemeat”, and as a fan of war films in general I knew this would make interesting viewing.
The film follows a mission put forward by Ewan Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley to deceive Hitler into diverting his troops towards Greece, leaving Sicily vulnerable for the British to take over and potentially turn the tide of World War II by planting a corpse off the coast of Spain, planting fake documents detailing British plans to invade Greece. How they execute this plan and navigate the challenges and internal politics to do so is what forms the crux of this story.
Let’s start with the performances within this film, because in a story that does not rely on fast paced action or quickly occurring events, it truly is the cast who carry the plot and it’s screenplay forward.
Colin Firth is as always a standout performer in this one, but he is almost equally matched by Matthew MacFayden who arguably has a character with a more obvious and rewarding arc in the film. The two are brilliant together on screen as their relationship is so crucial to this story.
The supporting cast are great too — Kelly Macdonald in particular I thought did very well and so too did Penelope Wilton, who I’ve grown to become very fond of having seen her with Ricky Gervais in “After Life”.
As mentioned, the story doesn’t rely on action or a racy screenplay, but that is the nature of the beats when telling a tale like this. It is a slow burner, but what it does do is for the majority of the time, keep you interested.
Whether it’s the initial pitching of the plan, or the screening process for which corpse to use for planting the documents or even the conception of a back story for the body to cover every potential hole in the plan — it’s fascinating to watch unfold and you do feel invested.
However there are moments that fall flat and an already slow paced film slows all the way down, particularly in the middle third. I can understand why, as it looks to show us the development of the relationship between Ewan and Jean, as well as how that can affect other members of the team. It also plays a part in the arc of Colin Firth’s character but it isn’t engaging enough for me to actually care about. I could understand and see the reasoning but I just didn’t think it did the film or it’s pacing any favours.
It does pick up again though, into the latter stages of the film when the plan actually gets going the pace picks up big time — and you start to get invested again before it loses you. Things happen quickly and the tension starts building as various roadblocks come into play for the characters to deal with.
There are various sub plots going on that don’t necessarily aid the story as much as the film wants to make us believe, but for the most part the theme of deception and how mentalities can be affected in war when dealing with spies and double spies is always kept in focus. In fact, one sub plot that I did enjoy was seeing a mini origin story for a certain Ian Fleming, who turned out to quite enjoy the odd spy story or two…
In the end though it’s a decent watch. It does get itself tied down with sub plots that don’t aid the story as much as it wants to make you believe, but when it stays focused on the core aspect — the mission, it’s planning, the challenges and the execution, is when this becomes great viewing. If it stuck to this and kept the run time and screenplay shorter and sharper, this would have been a fantastic end product.
“Operation Mincemeat” is out in cinemas only from April 15th.