It is said that sometimes the most incredible stories are the ones that really happened and The Weapon of Deception – Operation Mincemeat is the perfect example to support this saying. The film, written by Michelle Ashford (The Pacific, Masters of Sex) and directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, Captain Corelli’s mandolin, Miss Sloane), is in fact an adaptation of an essay by the historian Ben Macintyre and almost exactly represents a real story, except for adding details that provide a certain dramatic depth.
Operation Mincemeat: Like a trout on a hook
The story of Operation Mincemeat is set in London in 1943, in the hottest moment of the Second World War, and tells the plan of British military intelligence to penetrate the Axis territories through the well-defended Sicily. The narrating voice is that of Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), when he was part of the British counterintelligence at the time, several years before writing his first novel starring a certain James Bond. Fleming at the time contributed to the drafting of the Trout Memo, a document that describes a number of strategies on how to deceive the German forces.
One of these having the enemy forces find a corpse carrying false documents involved indicating that the Allies were planning to reconquer Europe through an attack in Greece, in order to push the German army to move troops from the Sicilian coasts. to the Greek ones, thus leaving the island unguarded. It will seem like an absurd, highly risky and taken plan of a movie plot, yet it really is what happened.
The operation is being carried out by Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth), a former magistrate who, before joining the intelligence corps, leaves his wife and daughter for the USA to keep them safe from the danger of the German invasion, and from Charles Cholmondeley ( Matthew Macfadyen), a man who finds himself living in the shadow of his brother who died in the war. Soon the two will add the brilliant one to the team Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald), an MI5 secretary eager for a career.
Orchestrating the deception turns out to be more and more dangerous, not so much because of the difficulty of finding a suitable corpse, but because the spy department knows that Hitler is paranoid and that if he were to eat the leaf the result would be diametrically opposite , making him landing in Sicily a total failure. To make the bait absolutely credible, therefore, the protagonists must equip the corpse with a background constructed in the smallest detailsinventing more and more details of the life of the fictitious William Martin that can be recognizable on his body: a love letter and a photo of his girlfriend Pam, a reminder letter from Lloyds Bank etc.
To get involved in this work of characterization of William and Pam are above all Ewen and Jean, who more and more they will add personal details that reflect the desires and dissatisfaction of their own lives, ending up getting emotionally close; in the meantime, also in Charles the interest in Jean grows, and with it an inevitable sense of rivalry true Ewen.
Operation Mincemeat: proto-007
John Madden directs the film poised between historical accuracy and spy story with an exquisitely English tone, using History as a background to tell more human stories. Inserting a love triangle into the story of an operation on which the fate of a war rests might sound pretentious, but the director manages not to overdo it by dedicating the right amount of emotional resonance to himwithout excessively diverting attention to the main focus: the importance of the war in the shadows fought by the moves and intuitions of the spies, which upstream of the chain of command can overturn the outcome of the fighting even before it begins.
Given the nature and setting of the film, you’d better not expect scenes of military action, physical combat, or poignant bursts of emotion. We are not facing a James Bond set in the Second World War, but a spy story that is played out in the minds and words of its protagonists, between plots and negotiations. Just to understand: if you are used to action-packed works you might find it slow and wordy.
The cast boasts some of the best British actors on the square (including two Mr. Darcy side by side) and their performances manage to bestow the right degree of British confidence that this film needs. conveying strong emotions behind rigid composed expressions.
Operation Mincemeat is a spy story with an emphasis on the human aspect, always aware of the cost that personal decisions can claim in times of war. There is not too much emphasis on suspense, although Madden creates tension at some moments in the second half of the film, when we see the precarious unfolding of the plan put in place by the group of spies. Perhaps the biggest stumbling block in the film is hers underlying ambiguityhis acrobatic effort to be both a historical spy story and a personal one, whichs the cohesion and weakens the love drama of the protagonists.
Operation Mincemeat is still counted today as the greatest spy hoax in wartime. The transposition of John Madden and Michelle Ashford isn’t a great epic, but it’s not meant to be either. It’s an enjoyable film that effectively illuminates a forgotten corner of World War II, relieving it of historical notionism and making it genuinely compelling. The film is available from today 12 May in cinemas across the country. Little tip: if you talk about it british it’s yours guilty pleasure we advise you to view it in the original language, as long as you have a good familiarity with the language.