Thursday, May 5, 2022




Operation Mincemeat. 

Produced by Charles S Cohen. Executive Producer Christian  McLaughlin. Seesaw Films. Released by Transmission Films . In Cinemas from May 12. Preview Palace Cinemas May 4. 2022

Film review by Peter Wilkins

In 1943, Allied Forces stormed the shores of Sicily and liberated the island before driving north through Italy in an operation that would be decisive in turning the tide of the war in Europe. What was not known at the time was that the operation was a covert act of deception on the part of British naval intelligence. The ingenious idea was to convince the Germans that the British had planned to attack the enemy through Greece and therefore distract enemy forces from the Sicily landing.

Matthew Macfadyn as Charles Cholmondeley. Colin Firth as Ewen Montagu

 The recent 2021 film Operation Mincemeat offers a fuller account of the secret operation than was revealed in the earlier 1956 film The Man Who Never Was. The title of that film referred to the plot to use a corpse, furnish him with fake top secret  documents and wash the body ashore on the Spanish coast, where the documents would be discovered and given to German high command. The ruse would then lead the Germans to assume that the allied objective was to attack the enemy through Greece and steer them away from a proposed Sicily landing.

Director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and scriptwriters Michelle Ashford (screenplay) and Ben Macyntire (Book)have introduced a clever theatrical device to narrate the incident through Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels. Fleming, played in the film by Johnny Flynn, was a personal assistant to Rear Admiral John Godfrey (Jason Isaacs ) who had devised the Trout Memo in 1939 as a comparison to fly fishing to catch out an enemy through deception. There are two wars, Fleming’s voice tells the viewer at the beginning of the film – the seen war of bombs and bullets and the hidden war of lies and deception. Operation Mincemeat is  a tense and thrilling account of the dangers and bravery of devious intelligence and risky operations. Ironically the film depicts the shadowy line between truth and fiction.


Kelly Macdonald as Jean Leslie

Matthew Macfadyn as Charles Cholmondeley

 It is difficult to decide how much of the film presents the truth and how much is fiction. It is true that peacetime King’s Counsel, Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Flight Lieutenant Charles Cholmondeley,pronounced Chumley (Matthew Macfadyn ) concocted a plan called Operation Trojan Horse that was renamed Operation Mincemeat. It is also true that they found the corpse of Glyndwr Michael and created false documents for a fictitious Major Brian Martin. The gravesite still exists in the Spanish coastal town of Huelva. Whether it is true that  operative Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald) and Montagu  had romantic feelings for each other or that Cholmondeley was jealous is open to conjecture. It could well be dramatic license to introduce a romantic element to the film. Personally, I felt that the film could have been more suspenseful if not interrupted by the romantic subplot. However all three chacvaters were real people and the inclusion of the romance and rivalry could give a different perspective on the risks that romance could play in such a vitally important strategic operation. Viewers will need to judge for themselves.

 Penelope Wilton as Hester Leggett

Matthew Macfadyen as Charles Cholmondeley

Colin Firth as Ewen Montagu

Kelly Macdonald as Jean Leslie

Operation Mincemeat is superbly cast in the fine tradition of British films about wartime. Supporting Firth and Macfadyen are Penelope Wilton as head of Jean Leslie’s department at MI5. Simon Russell-Beale plays a credible Winston Churchill and there are nuanced performances from the excellent support characters. This lends the film an understated authenticity. Discretion and deception are at the very heart of the characters’ actions and editor Victoria Boydell captures the gritty and violent realism of the battlefield and marine warfare. There is an image of the young submariners about to face a dangerous landing that reminded me of Stella Bowen’s portrait of a young bomber crew before their fatal mission.. Sebastian Blenkov’s cinematography, effectively underscored by Thomas Newman’s music complements Madden’s eye for detail and subtle direction of his cast. Truth is often stranger than fiction and Operation Mincemeat brings an operation clouded in secret shadow to light. It is a commendation to the men and women who were the silent heroes of the war effort and as an unjust war is waged in Ukraine, it is a reminder of bravery, intelligence and courage in the face of adversity. Operation Mincemeat is a story well worth telling and a film well worth seeing.