Operation Mincemeat review – intriguing true story of espionage in war
Updated: May 9
From an unclaimed body to the Allied invasion of Sicily
By Anttoni James Numminen
Courtesy of See-Saw Films
It’s 1943 and though the Americans have joined the war, Allied success is far from certain. Victory rests heavily on a successful invasion of mainland Europe and though D-Day is less than a year away, German forces continue to reinforce southern Europe, including Sicily.
Deception is needed in order to “play a humiliating trick on Hitler”, one which requires all the cunning of British Intelligence.
In an intriguing and well-told story, we follow the work of MI5 and fellow Intelligence Officers in their efforts to convince the Nazis that the Allies intend to invade Greece rather than Italy. No small task.
This is well thought out storytelling and not just a basic ‘war flick’; apart from the espionage and combat scenes, the film deals with issues of personal redemption, integrity, and loyalty. It also touches on the internal distrust and backstabbing within the military and government – especially towards those thought to be harbouring ‘communist’ sympathies - an angle that is often left out in similar films.
If there is a message to be taken from it, it’s that sometimes the “implausible” ideas are the best ones and we shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box, despite pressure from others.
Isaacs as Admiral Godfrey. Courtesy See-Saw Films.
We are also treated to a rather good cast. Apart from Colin Firth – whose role was better written in The King’s Speech – we get to enjoy Jason Isaacs’ excellent acting (Death of Stalin, Harry Potter) in a role that is at times reminiscent of Dolby in Len Deighton’s book and later film adaptation The Ipcress File.
While Simon Russell Beale (also in The Death of Stalin), does a decent enough job as Churchill, Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey, Doctor Who) provides some much-needed depth and character alongside Kelly Macdonald (Gosford Park, Line of Duty).
Despite the adequate direction and continuity - far superior to Nolan’s Dunkirk - the film is often let down by dialogue that is stale and unnecessary. The character development is also lacking and certain parts of the plot, such as the romance and sudden removal of Macdonald’s protagonist leave the viewer wondering how we got there in the first place.
Flynn as Ian Fleming. Courtesy Robert Viglasky/See-Saw Films.
I think it is only right that the involvement of Ian Fleming in the film is also addressed. While Johnny Flynn is vaguely reminiscent of a young Fleming and a few scenes are a wink towards the Bond aficionado (such as the buzzsaw watch which is a nice touch), certain scenes are forced while others are completely inaccurate. Not least the fact that towards the end of the film Fleming is seen writing a “spy story”, despite the fact that he did not start writing the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, until 1952.
Overall, the film is enjoyable and though historically accurate in many respects, should still be enjoyed as reliable entertainment rather than epic film-making such as The Longest Day.
And if there is a message to be taken from it, it’s that sometimes the “implausible” ideas are the best ones and we shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box, despite pressure from others.