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Operation Mincemeat


Stars: Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Penelope Wilton, Jason Isaacs, Johnny Flynn, Mark Gatiss, Simon Russell Beale, Hattie Morahan, Alex Jennings, Ruby Bentall

Director: John Madden

Film buffs with long memories might recall the (much) earlier version of this remarkable true story. Fox-British called it The Man Who Never Was and imported Hollywood stars Clifton Webb, Stephen Boyd and Gloria Grahame to give it more appeal to audiences across the pond.

No such concessions are made here.

It's set in 1942/3 when the Allies were planning to invade Sicily, and features a permanently-worried Firth in the Webb role as Commander Ewen Montagu, who, with his RAF chum Charles Cholmondeley (an impressively moustachioed Macfadyen stealing the acting honours), devises a daring and highly risky plan to deceive the Germans into believing that the invasion will take place elsewhere.

To this end, they enlist the 'help' of a dead vagrant, who will be given a new identity, a high naval ranking, a briefcase full of 'secret documents' suggesting the Allies will land in Greece, and then dumped in the sea off neutral Spain, from where it's hoped the info will make it all the way to Hitler in Berlin.

Risky indeed - especially when the 'local' coroner in Spain turns out to be a distinguished stand-in specialising in drowning cases.

The makers of this new version throw in a romance between Firth and co-worker Macdonald, raising Firth's stress levels even further, what with his brother (Gatiss) suspected of being an enemy spy, and his estranged wife gone to America with their children.

Meanwhile, Thomas Newman's upbeat music and Madden's restless cameras do sterling work in keeping the inherent dullness of some scenes at bay. Wilton impresses as a key member of Firth's team, while Flynn impersonates dashing Lt Ian Fleming, destined in post-war times to become rather adept at spy stories.

Unfortunately Macdonald's battles to suppress her natural Scottish accent severely hamper the conviction of her performance in this otherwise entertaining film.

David Quinlan

UK/Spain 2021. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by Panalux.
126 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 10 Apr 2022