Operation Mincemeat, 1943’s British deception operation to disguise the Allied invasion of Sicily, is one of the most remarkable stories in the history of war. Dressing the corpse of a vagrant as a Royal Marines officer equipped with personal items identifying him as a fictitious Captain with supposedly classified correspondence suggesting the Allies were planning to invade Greece (rather than Sicily), the operation was instrumental in the outcome of WWII. This fascinating story was given the big-screen treatment in 1956’s The Man Who Never Was, and 2022 brought another all-star telling of the events.
Directed by Shakespeare in Love’s John Madden, Operation Mincemeat is a charmingly old-fashioned war film that feels destined for perennial Christmas day viewings. The film isn’t particularly remarkable or memorable on a technical level, but succeeds in telling its fascinating story in a compelling and entertaining way. Boasting a who’s who of British film stars including Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Jason Isaacs, and Penelope Wilton, Operation Mincemeat is one of those hurrah hurrah Brit pride flicks that celebrates our achievements in a way that is almost cringeworthy. It’s the cinematic equivalent of Great Britain pulling a muscle patting itself on the back.
Performances across the board are great – Firth and Macfadyen (humorously both having played Mr. Darcy in adaptations of Pride & Prejudice) have excellent chemistry as the two leads of the operation, while musician Johnny Flynn is good fun in brief appearances as Bond scribe Ian Fleming – although some of his foreshadowing wink-to-the-audience moments are a little heavy handed. The Pacific screenwriter Michelle Ashford returns to the genre with the historically accurate script that brings the outlandish tale to life while keeping it accessible and easy-to-follow as double agents are revealed, and double crossings ensue.
Operation Mincemeat is an adequately put-together little war film that often feels more like a caper flick in the preparation of the operation. It’s one of those films that you’ll probably forget within ten minutes of watching it, but you will almost certainly have enjoyed the ride – and maybe even find yourself revisiting it on a rainy Sunday afternoon when it inevitably finds itself on the BBC. Operation Mincemeat is an incredible story, simply told, with a glamorous all-star Brit cast and good, old-fashioned war film thrills. Charming.