One of those true story tales that is so intricately outrageous it couldn’t possibly be fiction, Operation Mincemeat details a WWII espionage plot that centres itself around a heightened take on the classic Trojan Horse malware that so successfully aided the Greeks in their invasion of Troy.
There’s a background story to the titular operation that involved an invasion of the Balkans – where Adolf Hitler feared allied soldiers would overthrow his power – and an invasion of Sicily – which was believed to be used as a stronghold for allied troops. Knowing that Hitler was more concerned about the Balkans, an elaborate plot was concocted to skewer his confidence.
And when I say elaborate, I mean that with a capital “e”.
Directed by John Madden (Shakespeare In Love, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Operation Mincemeat sets up a display of subtle machismo through the dynamic pairing of British Intelligence Officer Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen) and Naval representative Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth), whose combined ideas – both which centre around the use of a corpse – are ultimately given the go-ahead in the military’s attempt at deceiving Hitler’s forces.
The idea is that the use of a corpse – here it’s the body of a young man recently deceased from ingesting rat poison – will be dressed up and dumped off the Spanish coast. If all goes to plan, the body will be discovered and believed that an aircraft detected over the Balkans has been shot down. It’s just so crazy that it might work! Of course, there’s more to this plan than just a physical body and a uniform. The “soldier” himself has to seem like a wholly realised individual, and so Charles and Ewen hire Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald) who both provides a decade-old photo of herself to be used as the soldier’s betrothed and a series of letters that contains key information about the manufactured movements of a fake Naval regiment.
As elaborate and intricate it all proves, Madden, his uniformly fine cast, and Michelle Ashford‘s tight script make sure everything comes together like clockwork. For a film detailing such a sad part of history, there’s a certain joy in watching such a story that manages a dramatic underbelly continually lace itself with surprising wit, welcome romance, and spy genre thrills; and, yes, when you hear one of the characters be referred to as Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), your ears are not mistaking you, with the blueprint of the 007 series evidently inspired by such historical stimulation.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Operation Mincemeat is now screening in Australian theatres.