Operation Mincemeat (2021)

The tale of a plan to deceive the German army about the British army’s invasion plans, using a dead body and fake documents.

This is a strange watch. Like all films about the second world war, it does lose a bit of tension because you ultimately know how it ends. For this, even if the deception doesn’t work, it’s not like England are going to lose. So even if the film ends with a personal loss, in the grand scheme it’s a win.

Spoilers, it works and Germany loses the war. Just once I want a film like this to end with “and then the Nazis fought back and won the war, the end” just to confuse the ever-loving fuck out of everybody, and as a social experiment as to how many people get their history knowledge from films.

But despite us knowing how it ends, and the writers knowing we know how it ends, it still tries to draw tension into it in the “will it work” way. I mean, the trailer says “MI5 began the greatest deception in human history”, not “attempted”, the trailer itself implies it works. So the attempted adding of tension to those moments robs the film of what it could be. You can make it tense for the characters but intercut it with scenes of the plan working so that the audience is viewing it from the perspective that we have now. It is possible for historical films to surprise you, The Duke did it marvellously, for example.

This isn’t too well known a story, so if they marketed it differently, it might have worked. Although me saying this all is missing the point, this is a film very much not about the destination, but about the journey. It is a good journey to take on. It’s astounding to see this happen, and how lucky it was that everything worked out the way it did. It’s fascinating to see it all unfurl, how it was done, how it nearly fell apart, and the lies they needed to tell to people so it would work. Not just to the enemies, obviously, but also to the family of the body they used.

It’s when the film turns away from its main focus that it loses something. The interpersonal relationships between the team just aren’t that interesting and feel very tacked-on and unnatural. It feels like the script has a lot of potential sub-plots in so that they could pick one and focus on that, and then forgot to delete the rest. These unfinished plots make it feel not so much a standalone film, and more like an episode in a series. The Ian Fleming references, for example, feel a bit too smug and annoying, like the film is taking a quick respite to say “this is the guy who wrote Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.

On the plus side, the performances are pretty good throughout, and it is a genuinely fascinating story. So in summary, I’d say you probably should watch it, but you don’t NEED to. It’s being released on Netflix in America, and think that’s the ideal place for it.

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