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“Operation Mincemeat” (2022)–Chopped and Diced

Operation Mincemeat (2021) is based on the true story of a successful British subterfuge against Nazi Germany during   the Second World War.  Released by Netflix on May 11 in time for Memorial Day, Operation Mincemeat retells the unfamiliar story of a pivotal operation by British intelligence to disguise the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily and dupe Hitler into thinking the target battle zone is Greece instead.  Thousands of Allied lives could be saved if their mission was accomplished.

Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth), a Naval intelligence officer, is in charge of  masterminding a plan to divert Hitler’s troops from Sicily, the location Hitler expects the Allied forces to invade.

The other intelligence officer assigned to concoct the plan with Montagu is Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen), who also has his own complicated family backstory.   Both Montague and Cholmondeley must devise a strategy that is believable. Instead, the most wild and improbable caper is elaborately designed.  A recent corpse of an Allied soldier will be set afloat in the English channel, with love letters explaining that he is disembarking in Greece for a major battle against Germany.  If Operation Mincemeat is successful, Sicily will remain relatively unguarded and ripe for the launch of an offensive against Hitler’s troops.  Preposterous as it may seem, the decoy corpse floats by a German military fleet and the Germans believe the love letters’ message.

Pulled in to help the two intelligence officers compose love letters in a convincing manner is Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald), an intelligence secretary, whose compositions expressing her love parallel her budding attraction for Montagu.  The star-crossed love story created to manipulate Nazi Germany’s military operations also mirrors the impossible love between Leslie and Montagu and the simmering jealousy of Cholmondeley.

Operation Mincemeat is sliced and diced into ever smaller narrative bits, obstructing the development of any tension between Leslie and Montagu–the real plot and interest for this viewer.  The drama needed to elevate the pacing and intrigue indicative of a thriller.  Instead, there is the fairly humdrum outcome of the operation in the final scenes.  It was like a message in a bottle:  “Please let us win and alter the course of this war”.

There is no dazzle although there are accomplished performances by the main actors–Firth, Macfayden, and Macdonald–and the supporting cast.  Perhaps the writers were shackled by wanting to adhere to the main historical thrust of the escapade.  However, with fictional characters created anyway and license taken with the nuanced love triangle, the potential for tension and drama fizzles.  Even the competition between Ewen and Charles for Jean’s affection and attention, which whispers  distrust and revenge, remains a whimper instead of simmering into a roar.   The tenuous loyalties to each other, to their families, and to their superior officer could have been the real story. Thousands of lives were saved by Operation Mincemeat and the drama of that feat is underdeveloped in this film.

Availability: Netflix streaming


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