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Operation Mincemeat (2021)


Operation Mincemeat is a film adaptation of the true story of a covert WWII British deception of Hitler. The 2011 book, Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory, is the most complete unclassified look at a key turning point of WWII. The inaugural season of the World’s Greatest Con podcast, World's Greatest Con, focused on the story as well. All three work in concert with each other, though the film is the least comprehensive.

Colin Firth, of plenty of British-focused films, plays Ewen Montague. Matthew Macfadyen, Succession’s Tom, is Charles Cholmondeley. They lead the team in developing the con. Penelope Wilton, of Downton Abbey fame, is Hester Leggett, Montague’s long-time secretary and go-between with his wife Iris. Kelly Macdonald plays Jean Leslie, a secretary that proves her worth enough to help with the plan and pose as the to-be fiancée of the dead pilot.

The story of Operation Mincemeat is nothing short of amazing. The podcast does a wonderful job diving into the details and struggles of the mission and is where I first learned about the story. The film is an adaptation and briefly touches on some of the challenging elements. The film starts to deviate as a love triangle develops between Leslie, Montague, and Cholmondeley. Montague is a married man but grows close to Leslie as they, together, make up the fantasy life behind Sergeant Roger Dearborn, the corpse to be deployed off the coast of Spain, and his lover.

The film focuses on this love triangle as the central conflict within the film and not the immense challenge of Operation Mincemeat. I wanted a fictionalized documentary-esque portrayal of the story but instead, I got a love story with some of the stories of Mincemeat. The few scenes directly focused on the operation including visits to MI6’s quartermaster were delectable morsels. In a nod to other spy films, we see a watch that is also a circular saw. It is a throwaway gag, but I cherished it.

Pearl Harbor was a terrible film because it was a love story overwhelming a historical event base. Mincemeat felt a bit more balanced but left me wanting more of the history as I came to from the podcast. Is Operation Mincemeat a bad film, no, but it was not what I expected. The cast was great, and I understand how Leslie and Montague fall for each other. I also understand Cholmondeley’s jealousy, but I wanted more visuals to go with the story I had listened to about developing the operation. This is the easiest introduction to learning about Operation Mincemeat and is well worth a watch even if the historical content is limited. If you want more look no further than the podcast or the book that both the film and podcast were sourced.

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