Operation Mincemeat is a 2021 film based on the military intelligence operation of the same name. There have been two different literary depictions of this particular case, with the 2021 film following on from Ben Macintyre’s Operation Mincemeat which was published in 2010.
Starring Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Penelope Wilton, Kelly Macdonald, Jason Isaacs and a whole cast of very familiar British players, Operation Mincemeat is unashamedly first and foremost a war film.
I can admit that as the roll of film company idents and opening credits played into the movie’s beginning, I was apprehensive. As something of a fan of the war movie genre, most specifically Second World War depictions, I have a certain expectation of a film with such subject matter as this. The poster and artwork ahead of its release promised a film that could rub shoulders with the like of The Great Escape, The Password is Courage, Battle of Britain, et al. But would it deliver?
Honestly my nerves about whether the film would live up to my hopes was quickly replaced with trepidation about what on earth I could say about a film I so thoroughly enjoyed. It absolutely did not disappoint in terms of all the elements one might expect from a World War Two picture, with the added espionage angle not just thrown in but executed superbly.
You might say that all the sights and smells of a war film are present and correct. And then some. They hit the vibe absolutely spot-on here. The jeopardy, the excitement, the drab sadness of the surroundings with brief moments of respite in the club that the scheming colleagues frequent. It all weaves together to create a mood which is just sublime.
They have nailed that war film feeling, with the added flavour of the vintage spy thriller. Everything compliments each other wonderfully with a satisfying balance between the action and the waiting; the national and personal interest; the high peaks of exhilaration and the troughs of characters’ desperation and at times despair.
So what on earth could I criticise in this modern war masterpiece? How can I berate anything about a film that is apparently largely true to the real-life events?
Firstly, one of the only larger plot points that didn’t exist in either the source material or the true life events, is the complicated romance story that weaves in between Firth, Macfadyen and Macdonald’s characters. While this felt untrue and unnecessary, I was forced to remind myself that a romantic B-plot was often a feature of war films, particularly those made either during World War Two or in the decade or so after.
Secondly, and this is only a tiny niggle, why did we need the definitive iteration that the character we are encountering is indeed 007 author Ian Fleming? I think introducing him as simply “Fleming” would have sufficed. But since his character does not tread anywhere that feels unwelcome throughout the remainder of the film, I can forgive what is essentially the only “nod, wink” where we are taken out of the story for a split second and into a modern context.
The larger proportion of the 128 minute run-time is sublime. All of the flavours that you are gearing up your movie digestion to consume when you see the advertising for Operation Mincemeat are delivered abundantly.
The film is balanced and sensitive in its execution of subject matter which is in some ways pretty grotesque. The British flair for subtle humour in awkward and painful situations perfectly compliments the action and the shocking, as in real life.
Operation Mincemeat is nothing less than a triumph of modern British cinema. It deserves every bit of praise it receives. While I am striving to be fair and unbiased about my review, I find this extremely challenging when the film quite simply delivers so strongly and on point.
128 very satisfying minutes, not a moment of which is truly wasted or unjustified. Bravo to all involved with the production.