Movie Review: Operation Mincemeat

One-liner: a smart cast, genre twist subplots and high stakes enliven this war drama’s intriguing, simple and true espionage plot.

Operation Mincemeat’s title and cast may not be all that enticing but this isn’t some starchy prestige war drama. To be fair, most of the British war dramas of its ilk have actually been good to excellent. The title alludes to the true story behind the real operation, which saw two intelligence officers deceive German troops with a corpse and false intel during World War II. Operation Mincemeat’s historical significance gives it a similar edge and nobility to The Imitation Game and Darkest Hour, where critical decisions and high risk gambles gave the British an upper hand during World War II.

Both these war dramas were steered by brilliant performances from iconic figures, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing and an unrecognisable Gary Oldman in an Oscar-winning performance as Winston Churchill. While this biographical icon aspect is missing from Operation Mincemeat, the film attempts to substitute a double team effort from Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen as Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondoley respectively. Both deliver the kind of dependable performances we’ve come to expect from them with Kelly Macdonald serving as a romantic interest and go-between as Jean Leslie.

Having had a successful outing with Miss Sloane, John Madden’s latest film keeps the director in the game with another solid entry. While there are story and tonal parallels with the likes of The Imitation Game and Darkest Hour, this handsome and intriguing war drama infuses a number of genre elements to keep you guessing as it ranges from war drama to espionage thriller, dark comedy and romance. A gentle distraction from the overriding simplicity of the main plot, these lighter touches help keep things curious, entertaining and upbeat as it builds tension towards the final flourish.

operation mincemeat movie

“Well, don’t just stand there.”

The central concept is an ongoing echo and perhaps these subplots serve as a way to enliven and muddle an otherwise simple deception or prevent it from stagnating. The on-and-off romance seems a bit perfunctory but adds allure to the overall game of deception and illusion. There’s an underlying tension to proceedings as stakes are raised with what’s considered one of the greatest deceptions in history. Yet, the gravity of the situation isn’t often felt as acutely as in its counterparts, coming to take on a paperback spy novel feel. Fighting the hidden war, Operation Mincemeat ties into this age of misinformation, unsung heroes and spins an entertaining and handsomely mounted yarn.

The bland cast, title and genre set against World War II may not grab you for whatever reason, but Operation Mincemeat manages to outperform expectations. It doesn’t quite reach the same powerful and solemn heights as The Imitation Game and Darkest Hour, but harnesses similar qualities in its entertaining, pulpy and free-ranging genre play and storytelling. Operation Mincemeat could have played up its comedy to become something more crowd-pleasing and upbeat, along the lines of The Boat That Rocked, but maintains due respect for the actual intelligence officers its based on.

The bottom line: Compelling