Monday, May 09, 2022

Fooling the Germans

by Ben Soton

Operation Mincemeat (12A). Warner Bros Pictures (2021). Written by Michelle Ashford, based on the book by Ben Macintyre. Director: John Madden. Stars: Matthew Macfadyen, Rufus Wright, Johnny Flynn, Penelope Wilton, Colin Firth, Kelly Macdonald, Mark Gatiss. 128mins.

Operation Mincemeat is an otherwise outstanding Second World War espionage film spoilt by a ridiculous anti-communist sub-plot. It’s actually a remake of the 1956 film The Man Who Never Was and tells the story of the ‘Twenty Committee’, an elite group of counter-intelligence operatives tasked with fooling the Germans that the invasion of Southern Europe will take place in Greece rather than Sicily.
    The film is dedicated to those who work in the shadows and is narrated by Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), the war-time intelligence officer and creator of James Bond who helped devise the disinformation concept that Operation Mincemeat was based upon.
    Much of the story is set around the work of Ewan Montague (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen) and their work to deceive the Germans. They find the body of a Welsh vagrant, Glyndwr Michael, dress him up as a Royal Marines' officer and dump his body, containing fake invasion plans, in the Mediterranean. It was hoped that after his body had washed up on the shores of Spain, the fake documents would end up in the hands of German intelligence, thus fooling them about the invasion of Sicily.
    Much of the film is taken up by the tug-of-love story between Montague and Chalmondley over female intelligence operative Jean Leslie (Kelly McDonald). Ironically, the rivalry centres around the would-be suitors spreading misinformation about the other, using their skills as counter-intelligence operatives to confuse a rival.
    The anti-communist sub-plot involves Montague’s brother Ivor (Mark Gatiss). Concerns are expressed about his visits to the Soviet Union and communist sympathies. The obvious stupidity of this being that Britain and the Soviet Union were allies during the Second World War. Hence the Soviet Union would have been keen to see Operation Mincemeat succeed. This rather nasty, as well as ridiculous, sub-plot could well be part of a broader historical revisionist agenda emanating from the European Union.
    Despite rivalry and setbacks, the mission eventually goes to plan. The body is dumped off the coast of Spain and the British agents do all they can to see it ends up in the hands of the Nazis. The film ends with the successful Anglo-American landing in Sicily, where little resistance is met.
    Those who carried out counter-intelligence operations such as this should be applauded for the role they played in the defeat of fascism. The underlying reason for there being so few German troops in Sicily in 1943, however, was because they were pre-occupied fighting the Soviet Union.

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