Movie Review ‘Operation Mincemeat’

By: 
John Thomas

A male body, dressed in a major’s uniform with a briefcase containing secret documents handcuffed to his wrist, is rolled off the deck of a submarine into the Gulf of Cadiz. It’s the middle of the night and few others are present.

After a brief salute, the men reenter the sub, secure the hatch and sink slowly back into the churning waters. They inform headquarters the mission is complete and operation “Trojan Horse” is underway.

The war is raging on too many scattered fronts for the allies to win, so they need a new plan to thwart the enemy. Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen) are the officers assigned to create such a plan.

In the past providing false information to the enemy has proven to have limited success. Success is mainly dependent on how carefully the information is documented and how well it’s presented to the enemy.

With the help of their trusted secretary, Hester Leggett (Penelope Witon), Ewen and Charles begin to plan the deception. Their first task is to create someone to deliver the false information – a person who never was so the enemy can’t prove or disprove the authenticity of the individual or the documents he is carrying. They also need a corpse who could have drowned, someone of military age and not recognized by the general public. The morgue eventually satisfies this need.

The first problem in creating forged documentation for the “Marine major” is finding someone living who resembles him to photograph for the paperwork. Eventually a person is found, photographs are taken, and the false background begins to unfold. The fabricated background includes his family and friends, education, military training and even a girlfriend.

To authenticate the girlfriend, a colleague offers an earlier beach picture of herself to be slipped into the “Major’s” pocket. Now, creating the false documents is far easier. The Allies want to focus their attention on a planned invasion of Sicily. To lead the enemy astray the documents in the briefcase hint at a forthcoming invasion of Greece and Sardinia instead of Sicily.

Feeling their part of the operation is complete, the “major” is loaded into a canister to be driven north to the awaiting submarine. In great secrecy the canister is loaded into the sub and the vessel heads south. The next morning, fishermen, off the coast of Spain, discover washed ashore a body dressed in a military uniform with a briefcase attached to his wrist. The body and briefcase are whisked off to police headquarters where both are secured.

Skilled enemy agents roaming the beach area are notified of the discovery and are most anxious to review the contents of the briefcase. First, however, they must secure the body and briefcase from the Spanish authorities, a feat almost impossible due to the tense circumstances of the day.

Directed by John Madden (Credits: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Miss Sloane), Operation Mincemeat runs 128 Minutes. It is a “should see” suspenseful story told first-hand by Ewen Montagu, author of the book The Man Who Never Was, which was later turned into a successful movie of the same name. The Prime Minister at the time the story takes place, didn’t like the name “Trojan horse” assigned to the operation so had it changed to “Operation Mincemeat.”

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