Based on Ben Macintyre’s book about the titular British World War II operation, which centred around an effort to keep the Allied invasion of Sicily a secret, Operation Mincemeat is another bog-standard British prestige pic obsessed with English wartime exceptionalism.
As handsomely made as it is, the end result doesn’t feel cinematic enough to fully deserve the big screen treatment. For a film whose fascinating historical premise hinges on a written letter – the story being bookended by the narration of Ian Fleming, the creator of the James Bond novels – it frustratingly doesn’t dare approach the fantastical espionage plot from a writer’s perspective. Nor does it have the chutzpah to properly lean into the inherently ridiculous nature of the central conceit.
And considering the presence of performers like Jason Isaacs and Simon Russell Beale, who both shone in Armando Iannucci’s dark historical satire The Death of Stalin, one wonders what could have been if one of the UK’s most scathingly brilliant satirists had gotten to do something more daring with the material than the usual “Weren’t we marvellous and noble during the war?” routine. ★★
- Starts May 26 D: John Madden (UK, 2021), with Colin Firth, Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfadyen.