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Sicilian flimflam

Operation Mincemeat tells the story behind a WWII disinformation campaign

Giles Keyte/Courtesy See-Saw Films and Netflix

Sicilian flimflam
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Dead men tell no tales—unless they’re carrying documents detailing phony invasion plans of the European continent.

In Operation Mincemeat, the real-life tale of one of history’s most successful military disinformation operations, in which a corpse played a vital role, marches onto the big screen in select theaters and on Netflix.

Riveting performances and elaborate sets help Operation Mincemeat rank among the best films about World War II, even with little combat action. While much of the derring-do takes place over teacups and typewriters, the dramatization of the plot to outwit the entire German army is nonetheless engrossing.

Expect some war-film casualties: two brief sensual scenes and more than a dozen instances of blasphemies and other foul language. Operation Mincemeat is rated PG-13.

The film opens in early 1943, when both Allied and Axis military commanders understood that Sicily was Germany’s “soft underbelly,” a vulnerable point of attack. If the Allies were to retake Europe, they’d have to invade through Italy’s southern shores. But the German war machine would be waiting there, and the slaughter of Allied troops would number in the “tens of thousands,” says British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Simon Russell Beale). How could the Allies lure German troops away from Sicily?

Britain’s intelligence service selects Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfayden) to head the Twenty Committee, a top-secret group charged with formulating an invasion ruse. The committee settles on a scheme to plant false letters, photos, and other “wallet litter” on the body of a dead man dressed as a British officer, and discreetly float the corpse into the path of Nazi agents on a beach in Spain. Most importantly, “Major William Martin” would be found shackled to a briefcase containing correspondence mentioning an Allied invasion of Greece.

Operation Mincemeat follows the Twenty Committee’s painstaking efforts to concoct Maj. Martin’s biographical backstory and assemble corroborative personal effects, all of which German intelligence would be sure to scrutinize.

Adm. John Godfrey (Jason Isaacs), who oversees the committee and reports to Churchill, opposes the plan, but his assistant, Lt. Cmdr. Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), who would begin writing James Bond novels a decade later, saw merit in the plan.

Suspicions arise that Montagu’s brother is a Communist sympathizer—or worse, a spy for Russia. And Cholmonde­ley, a bachelor, resents the relationship developing between Montagu and Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald), a beautiful MI5 clerk serving on the committee. The war’s outcome would hinge on the committee members’ craftiness and camaraderie.

Bob Brown

Bob is a movie reviewer for WORLD. He is a World Journalism Institute graduate and works as a math professor. Bob resides with his wife, Lisa, and five kids in Bel Air, Md.



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