n April 30, 1943, the body of a British Army officer washed ashore on a beach in Huelva, Andalusia, southern Spain.
Documents found with the body revealed that it was one Major William Martin, who was carrying a briefcase containing top-secret plans for an Allied invasion of Greece.
The tide of the war was beginning to turn and the German high command anticipated an Allied offensive somewhere in the Mediterranean.
They assumed that the point of attack would be Sicily and had reinforced defenses there accordingly, but the information they obtained about Major Martin was aimed at convincing the Nazis otherwise.
It was all a lie. Major Martin was a fictional creation and the whole thing was dreamed up by a Naval Intelligence team that included James Bond creator Ian Fleming. The subsequent success of this mad scheme was nothing short of miraculous and endearing to John Madden’s old-fashioned drama Operation Mincemeat cleverly tells his story.
It was told once before on screen in Ronald Neame’s rather ponderous 1956 account of the incident, The man who never wasbut Operation Mincemeat has more freedom of movement: All key players are now dead, and the recent release of government files has revealed more details about the operation, including the true identity of the corpse.
This has long been a controversial mystery, but we now know he was Glyndwr Michael, a homeless Welshman who died after eating rat poison.
Johnny Flynn is Ian Fleming, our clumsy narrator, deputy for John Godfrey (Jason Issacs), the ruthless and feared Director of Naval Intelligence.
In 1939, Godfrey had circulated a paper that became known as the “Trout Memo,” which compared deceiving the enemy to trout fishing and outlined various ways the Nazis could be profitably misled.
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In October 1942, an RAF lieutenant and counterintelligence agent named Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen) floated a plan to put false papers on a corpse. Godfrey hated the idea, but to his astonishment, Winston Churchill gave it the thumbs-up.
Churchill was deeply concerned that the Allied plan for an invasion of Sicily was so obvious that the Axis powers would be prepared for it, which meant huge casualties.
Navy intelligence officer Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) was seconded to work with Cholmondeley on the gasp, now gruesomely titled Operation Mincemeat. Fleming would also be involved, along with two women from the Secretariat of Naval Intelligence, Hester Leggett (Penelope Wilton) and Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald).
The level of planning was remarkable. Once the correct body was found, Montagu and the team created a “legend” for their imaginary soldier, William Martin.
They gave him love letters and a fictional girlfriend, Pam, with a photo he would wear provided by Leslie.
It’s a wonderful story that even a writer as imaginative as Ian Fleming could not have dreamed up, and Madden and screenwriter Michelle Ashford do a solid job of telling it.
Tentative forays into the private lives of the main characters are made: Cholmondeley is lonely, Montagu is unhappily married, and both are entranced by Jean, who is flattered but elusive.
You also get the sense that this is a plan no one is particularly proud of. Deception never feels particularly honorable, and there is also the affair of poor Glyndwr Michael, a forgotten man who died in appalling circumstances and did not consent to the posthumous mobilization of his person.
On the other hand, Glyndwr was knighted in death when the Allies tried to save the lives of thousands of soldiers in Sicily.
Madden’s film is a comfortable watch, gracefully performed by his cast, who do justice to this strange tale
Rating: three stars
The Northman (16, 137 mins)
Shakespeare robbed most of his plans, including hamlet, which was based on a Norse saga. This sad tale lies at the heart of Robert Egger’s remarkable and unabashedly brutal epic, starring a hulking Alexander Skarsgård as Amleth, a Viking warrior prince.
As a child, Amleth watched as his uncle Fjolnir (Klaes Bang) murdered his father, King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke), and usurped his queen (Nicole Kidman) and throne. Now grown and angry, Amleth tracks down Fjolnir on a remote Icelandic farm.
What happens next isn’t pretty, as all sorts of gory humiliations are inflicted on the bodies of Amleth’s enemies, some of which he strings into a sort of morgue art installation.
Eggers is a skilled and imaginative director, and his films reach an almost unbearable intensity: The Northman is a brilliantly executed saga that digs into the heart of Viking sensibilities.
However, the violence is unrelenting. I’m sure wallowing in the full horror of the human condition is perfectly legitimate, but I’m not sure how helpful it is.
Rating: four stars
The Lost City (12A, 112 minutes)
Hollywood now makes so little comedy comparatively that those who produce it are painfully self-conscious and whip the hell out of every scenario.
There are numerous moments in the history of the Nee brothers The Lost City when her frothy pudding gets overdone, but luckily for her, a master comic book actress is on the case and Sandra Bullock wrings the full value out of her role.
Bestselling author Loretta Sage (Bullock) has been living in seclusion since the death of her husband and announces that her latest romance novel, Dash McMahon, will be her last.
Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum), a book cover model-turned-face of Loretta’s heroine Dash, isn’t pleased, but before you know it, the two are drawn into a real-life adventure on a remote island involving lost people Treasures and a mad billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe).
Borrowing shamelessly from Indiana Jones movies is fun for the most part and Romanticize the stone. And Brad Pitt has a hilarious cameo as Jack Trainer. When Loretta asks Trainer why he looks so good, he cryptically replies, “My dad was a weatherman.”
Rating: three stars
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/movie-reviews/operation-mincemeat-movie-review-ian-fleming-inspired-ruse-to-fool-nazis-is-stranger-than-fiction-41553657.html Operation Mincemeat Movie Review: Ian Fleming’s inspired ploy to fool Nazis is stranger than fiction