Operation Mincemeat is the UK’s latest World War II movie about the legendary plan the British used to trick the Nazis into believing the Allied invasion was coming through Greece instead of Sicily. The movie has a fantastic cast and unforgettable characters. And the moment in history the writers chose is truly ripe for suspense and cinematic intensity. Though the film is based on actual events, it is undoubtedly better than any story someone could have made up.
The historical events of Operation Mincemeat have been adapted to film before. It was made into the 1956 movie The Man Who Never Was and based on the memoir of Naval intelligence officer Ewen Montagu who was credited with leading the deception. However, that film added a fictional B-story about an Irish defector who attempted to foil the British plot. This tale cites its sources as Ben Macintyre’s 2010 bestselling nonfiction book Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of WWII. Michelle Ashford did an excellent job adapting the story, creating more of an emotional tableau instead of focusing on clichéd bits of action.
Here’s everything we know so far about this John Madden-directed film.
The Plot & Real-Life Events
The story behind Operation Mincemeat is well known, just from the history. The Allied forces were preparing to attack Fortress Europe. Spain was a notably neutral country, and the Straits of Gibraltar still belonged to the United Kingdom, so Allied naval forces could easily enter the Mediterranean. The plan to invade Italy on the island of Sicily was called Operation Husky. But the Allies were worried the Germans might catch wind of the plan and reinforce their armies in Sicily and the Italian peninsula. Some might remember from The Imitation Game that code breaking played a big part in WW II. So, the British came up with a clever subterfuge to conceal the Allies’ approach to Sicily.
It’s possible that Ian Fleming could have conceived of the idea which grew into the plan, but British Naval Intelligence came up with a strategy. They would leak information to the Spanish that the Allied plan was to invade Greece, not Italy. But how to do it? Well, they decided to pull a Weekend at Bernie’s. Having obtained the body of a homeless man named Glyndwr Michael (who died of eating rat poison), they dressed him up as the fictitious Major William Martin. They planted fake identification on him and a photo of his “wife” that was actually a picture of the clerk Jean Leslie. On his person, they also hid a transcript of correspondence between two British Generals discussing how the Allied plan was to invade Greece and that the target of Sicily was merely a feint to distract German forces.
They released the body from a submarine off the Spanish coast, and it was found by a fisherman the following morning. The fisherman showed the body to the police, and the Spanish government shared the information with German intelligence before returning it to the British. They determined that the Germans had read the false note from forensic evidence. Their hopes were confirmed when, after decoding German communications, they saw their forces shift into Greece and Sardinia. And on the 17th of August, Sicily fell to the Allies.
The cast is led by the lovely Colin Firthwho might have been recently most visible in the Kingsman movies, but who has been the grounding force in epic British films such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The King’s Speech. The latter film may have begun this decade-long trend of World War II movies being told from the “domestic front” of the United Kingdom, so to speak, which raises the stakes of war through the eyes of civilians rather than soldiers.
The movie also stars Matthew MacFadyen (most recently in Succession) playing Charles Cholmondeley, likely the second most important in creating the operation. Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy from Harry Potter) plays John Godfrey. Lorne MacFadyen (The Outlaw King) plays Roger Dearborn. Paul Ritter (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Quantum of Solace) plays Bentley Purchase. And Johnny Flynn (Stardust) will play Ian Fleming, the famous author of the James Bond novels who, at the time, was a Lieutenant Commander in British Naval intelligence. Kelly Macdonald, who plays the voice of Merida in Brave and the role of Carla Jean Moss in No Country for Old Men, will play Jean Leslie. In Operation MincemeatLeslie was an MI5 clerk who became the subject of a photograph that would add realism to the British military’s invented story.
Certainly, an exciting enough story on its own, the movie should make it much more entertaining and hopefully cover more details. Operation Mincemeat opened to generally positive reviews in the UK and, considering its cast, should prove to be a decent enough movie to see for yourself.
Operation Mincemeat is coming to Netflix on May 6, 2022.
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