Operation Mincemeat review – a first-rate war-time spy film

By M.N. Miller
Published: May 6, 2022
Netflix film Operation Mincemeat


Operation Mincemeat is an exceptionally made and acted war-time spy film.

This review of the Netflix film Operation Mincemeat does not contain spoilers. It will stream on May 6th, 2022.

John Madden’s suspenseful Operation Mincemeat tells the story of a deception effort by Allied forces to pull German Nazi reinforcements from defending Sicily. A joint effort with soldiers from England, Canada, and the United States, the 1943 invasion helped save thousands. And all of it was possible by taking a dead body of a tramp who fit the profile of a deceased soldier. But how? It would help if you had a couple of intelligent officers, a submarine, and the will to find a way.

Naval Intelligence Officer Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Royal Air Force Officer Charles Cholmondeley (Successions’ Matthew Macfadyen), a Laurel and Hardy/Odd Couple type with less humor and more soberness. This, after all, is about life and death, with the world on the brink of annihilation. With the help of an ambitious government employee, Jean (Kelly MacDonald), and an experienced hand, Hester (Cry Freedom‘s Penelope Wilton), they plot their unheard-of plan. Oh, and it annoys their superiors. The head of the division is Royal Officer John Godfrey (Jason Isaacs). He would like to keep the mission shamed, standing in a corner. And Ian Fleming (yes, that one, played by Johnny Flynn) pops up as a bureaucrat who will pick any side Winson Churchill lands on. 

Madden’s Operation Mincemeat has that based on a true story label, and war films are being produced at an equal rate to comic movies at this point. Even if that also comes with the tagline where the fate of the world lies in this operation, the difference here is it happens to be true. Knowing this generates quite a bit of suspense. Michelle Ashford (The Pacific, Masters of Sex) adapted the script from the Ben Macintyre nonfiction book of the same name. Ashford sets a superbly paced plot and layered spy film. She truly has the conclusion in doubt for the viewer by always keeping the disinformation flowing.

The main flaw in the film is the unneeded love triangle between MacDonald’s Jean with Charles and Ewen. While Macintyre has alluded to possibly romantic feelings being developed over time, and certainly understandable, there is no evidence this existed. It’s a good third of the plot and used to develop the politest friction you’ll ever see between two men who hold a torch for a woman. However, it takes away from some of the prestige of the story. You may find yourself saying, “Fellas, is now the time?” as the bickering over personal matters happens while Hitler is moving around his battalions. 

That being said, this is an exceptionally made and acted war-time spy film. Led by an outstanding Matthew Macfadyen and the always reliable Colin Firth, Operation Mincemeat is a first-rate watch.

What did you think of the Netflix film Operation Mincemeat? Comment below!

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1 thought on “Operation Mincemeat review – a first-rate war-time spy film

  • May 8, 2022 at 11:15 am

    There are so many epic espionage films and TV shows on now. There’s the Ipcress File whether vintage Michael Caine or newcomer Joe Cole, Mick Herron’s Slow Horses from the Slough House stables, The Courier about Greville Wynne played by Benedict Cumberbatch who looks astonishingly just like Wynne did in real life, Colin Firth in Operation Mincemeat, Olen Steinhauer’s All the Old Knives and let’s not forget Kaley Cuoco in the Flight Attendant.

    Indeed, ignoring the fact based Courier, there’s almost too much fictional espionage on the menu to cope with so why not try reading instead. If you liked Deighton, Herron or Wynne, we suggest a raw noir fact based espionage masterpiece could do the trick. Three compelling thrillers spring to mind. They are all down to earth, often curious real life Cold War novels you’ll never put down.

    Try Bill Browder’s Red Notice, Bill Fairclough’s Beyond Enkription in The Burlington Files series and Ben Macintyre’s The Spy and the Traitor about KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky. If you haven’t read all of these by now it’s time to make up for the errors of your ways.

    Talking of Col Oleg, he knew MI6’s Col Mac (aka Col Alan Pemberton in real life) who was Edward Burlington’s handler in The Burlington Files. Bill Fairclough (aka Edward Burlington) came across John le Carré (aka David Cornwell) long after the latter’s MI6 career ended thanks to Kim Philby. The novelist Graham Greene used to work in MI6 reporting to Philby and Bill Fairclough actually stayed in Hôtel Oloffson during a covert op in Haiti which was at the heart of Graham Greene’s spy novel The Comedians. Funny it’s such a small world!

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