The weapon of deception – Operation Mincemeat, the review: War, fake news and fiction

The review of Operation Mincemeat – The weapon of deception, a film about the power of the manipulation of reality and the imagination as a creative act, based on the operation that changed the fortunes of the Second World War, arrives in theaters on May 12.

The Weapon of Deception – Operation Mincemeat: Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen in a scene from the film

A basement in central London, a bizarre and improbable staging, and the creative genius of those who had the task of making it credible. It was called Operation Mincemeat, it was the secret mission actually orchestrated by the British secret services during the Second World War to trick Hitler’s troops, and here gives the title to the film with which John Madden, director of Shakespeare in love, decided to tell it, in his own way of course. In the background, as we will explain more fully in our ** review of The weapon of deception – Operation Mincemeat, the historical reality in a game of reversals and reconstructions that constantly refer to metartistic reflection. A spy story that after the presentation at the last Bif & st arrives in theaters from May 12 with Warner Bros.

Between stage fiction and historical reality

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The Weapon of Deception – Operation Mincemeat: Simon Russell Beale in a scene from the film

Bizarre, daring, ironic, but also romantic, tragically human and even true. As absurd as it may seem, the story that John Madden tells with The Weapon of Deception – Operation Mincemeat has really happened, not only that: it has forever changed the fate and the future of Europe, establishing itself as the decisive turning point of the Second World War.
July 10, 1943. Shortly before the flashback that tumbles the viewer at the beginning of the story, the voiceover bursts immediately revealing the heart of the film: “In every story there are elements visible and others hidden. This is especially true in war stories”. Which, the narrator reiterates, can be of two types: one visible and the other invisible. What you see is made of “courage, sacrifice and brutal strength, in which there are dead and wounded”in what is not seen “bad faith, fiction, seduction and deception are confused” while the “truth is protected by a blanket of lies”.

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The Weapon of Deception – Operation Mincemeat: Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald in a scene from the film

This is the war the film focuses on, an operation launched as the Allies prepared to invade occupied Europe. The dilemma they face is to complete the landing in Sicily avoiding the massacre by the German armies, present in southern Italy in massive quantities. It was at that moment that the British thought of hatching a genius plan, an unlikely when complex disinformation strategy to mock the Nazis and lead them astray, making them believe that Allied troops would land in Greece instead of Sicily. The task was entrusted to two intelligence agents, Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen), while the absolute protagonist of the staging would have been the body of a dead man. They would then have given him a false identity and dressed in a military uniform to make him look like a courier victim of a plane crash; together with the corpse floating off the Mediterranean, a briefcase containing false documents, which would have indicated the Greek coasts and not the Sicilian ones as a starting point for reconquering Europe. The goal was to have the body recovered from the Nazi spies, who would then report the false information collected together with the body directly to Adolf Hitler in Berlin.

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The power of imagination

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The Weapon of Deception – Operation Mincemeat: Johnny Flynn during a scene from the film

Few will know that the plot of Operation Mincemeat was borrowed from a stage fiction suggested by Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), the writer of the successful James Bond novels. Fleming had read it in a Basil Thompson novel and it was he who proposed it to Admiral John Godfrey (Jason Isaacs). We could define it as a forerunner of fake news, John Madden leaves the conflict in the background to set up a reflection on the power of the manipulation of reality and on the origin of artistic creation. He is not only interested in the double games and misdirections of a classic spy film plot, the rules and conventions of the genre become in fact a pretext to investigate other things such as the use of imagination in wartime, the exploration of deception and falsehood in all its forms.

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The Weapon of Deception – Operation Mincemeat: Alex Jennings in a scene from the film

Up to tracing the origins of the creative act of a work of art: what else is representation if not a counterfeit of reality? He had already dealt with Shakespeare in love, here he returns to do it with respectable acrobatics. All the characters write and imagine something: love letters, pieces of a stranger’s life to be plunged into the middle of the Mediterranean. Because in the invisible war where “one man dies another begins his journey” and so it can also happen that the fate of the world depends “from a corpse on a cart”; in this war the heroes have no faces and the brave men end up buried together with the files under lock and key. As the superbly portrayed characters of Colin Firth and Matthew MacFadyen demonstrate, common men who at the dawn of the new day just need “drink something”.


We conclude the review of Operation Mincemeat – The weapon of deception can only be concluded by reiterating the theses held up to now. An enjoyable film, a spy story that exploits the conventions of the genre but to take unexpected directions that will entertain the viewer. John Madden signs a layered film, where the praise of the imagination as a creative act, the reflection on the power of literature and the role of the manipulation of truth in history find a place.

Because we like it

  • Reflection on the power of manipulation and the origin of the creative act through the conventions of the espionage genre.
  • The historical reality remains in the background and the classic double game of spies, the intrigues and the staged mosaic of roles, becomes a tool for a metaliterary reflection.
  • A fast pace thanks to which the film entertains and entertains the viewer until the end.

What’s wrong

  • The labyrinth of intrigues and double or triple games and the reconstruction of the story at a fast pace could disorient the viewer less accustomed to this type of acrobatics.

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