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Thread: OPERATION MINCEMEAT (John Madden 2021)

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    OPERATION MINCEMEAT (John Madden 2021)

    JOHN MADDEN: OPERATION MINCEMEAT (2021)


    COLIN FIRTH AND MATTHEW MACFAYDEN IN OPERATION MINCEMEAT

    Important WWII Allied British deception operation elaborately recreated but so blandly it winds up feeling pointless

    This Netflix production concerns a World War II British intelligence deception operation that used an anonymous corpse planted on the coast of Spain tricked up with false identity and documents as a decoy to make the Germans think the next big Allied push would be via Greece, not Sicily. It's all very elaborately recreated, complete with unnecessary platonic love triangle and rather vague treatment of the violation of various moral principles along the way. The story is told. But the effort is so retro in conception and execution it leaves one feeling frustrated and empty.

    John Le Carré did this kind of thing best, but he would have had more treachery and betrayal (it has some, but not enough), and more intensity and specificity in the characters. One never really cares much about the main ones. They are the chief of operation, Lt. Commander Ewen Montagu, played by Colin Firth, looking a bit bland and washed out; and his co-director Squadron Leader Charles Cholmondely, played by Matthew Macfayden, who plays Shiv Roy's hilariously weak husband Tom Wambsgans in the great HBO series, "Succession." Macfayden actually is British born and educated. But here his role is exposition. He is a neutral figure, showing off his resonant voice and wiggling a big dark mustache.

    There are three ladies. Offering solid backup as Hester Leggett is Penelope Wilton, beloved as Isabel in "Downton Abbey," and familiarity with her there makes it obvious she's wasted here. Then there are a couple of young things, chiefly Jean (Kelly Macdonald), brought in, oddly, by Ewan to the secret operation from another MI5 department after he persuades her to donate an old photo of herself to plant as the corpse's girlfriend. Then he and the stiff Cholmondely fall for her, but nothing comes of it other than to slow down the action with moments of tediously brave self-control. Ewan's wife is Jewish, and gone with the children to be safe in America. The marriage is, maybe, on the rocks: but who cares? There's also Patricia (Charlotte Hamblin), but to be honest, I got her confused with Jean.

    It seems that the operation, despite all the complications, is a great success, because the Allied landing comes via Sicily as planned with light losses suggesting only local forces opposing them, with the Germans sent to Greece. Things get lively, and Netflix financing shows, in scenes set in Spain showing the very iffy process of getting the "neutral" Spanish to turn over this corpse's rich fake information to Axis friends in time to convince the Nazis to redeploy. There's even a brief sequence of the Allied landing. But are we supposed to care about that or about Jean getting transferred and giving Ewan one hug and a kiss goodbye? The love action here is so restrained this could be a movie from the 1940's.

    Another touch is composer-actor Johnny Flynn as Ian Fleming, a member of MI5 attached somewhat vaguely to the operation, there-yet-not-there but smoking and typing up a storm and looking rakish as he writes a "spy story," as he tells colleagues, and hence being the nascent creator of '007.' Another way this very solid and lumbering piece of War history gets a touch of cinematic tinsel flavor added. All this is watchable, the writing and acting serviceable, the production valuables solid. It just doesn't wind up being a very good movie. Madden was more in his element in the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" movies. Partly at fault no doubt was Michelle Ashford's screen adaptation of the book by Ben Macintyre.

    Operation Mincemeat, 128 mins, debuted at the British Film Festival in Australia in 2021 and theatrically released in many countries in April 2022. It released in US theaters May 6, 2022 and on Netflix May 11. Metacritic rating: 65%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-18-2022 at 12:04 AM.

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