Combustible Celluloid Review - The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2024), Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Arash Amel, Guy Ritchie, based on a book by Damien Lewis, Guy Ritchie, Henry Cavill, Eiza González, Alan Ritchson, Alex Pettyfer, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Babs Olusamokun, Henrique Zaga, Til Schweiger, Henry Golding, Cary Elwes, Rory Kinnear
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With: Henry Cavill, Eiza González, Alan Ritchson, Alex Pettyfer, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Babs Olusamokun, Henrique Zaga, Til Schweiger, Henry Golding, Cary Elwes, Rory Kinnear
Written by: Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Arash Amel, Guy Ritchie, based on a book by Damien Lewis
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence throughout and some language
Running Time: 120
Date: 04/19/2024
IMDB

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2024)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Rocking the Boats

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This twisty, lighthearted, impossible-caper movie is the kind of thing that director Guy Ritchie does best; it's not very deep, but it's funny, swiftly-paced, and tells a great story.

It's 1942 and German U-Boats are making life difficult for Great Britain, sinking desperately needed supply ships. It is learned that a ship loaded with U-Boat fuel and equipment will be docked at Fernando Po, an island off of Cameroon. Under orders from Prime Minister Churchill (Rory Kinnear), Brigadier Gubbins (Cary Elwes) calls in Gus March-Phillips (Henry Cavill) to lead an unofficial team to sabotage the ship. He chooses outcasts Anders (Alan Ritchson), Henry (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), Freddy (Henry Golding), and Geoffrey (Alex Pettyfer) to join him.

Agent Heron (Babs Olusanmokun) is already stationed on the island, which is populated by German, Italian, and Spanish officers, and keeps them occupied and entertained at his bar. Agent Marjorie Stewart (Eiza González) is in charge of distracting the head Nazi there, Heinrich Luhr (Til Schweiger). Before the heroes set sail, posing as an innocent fishing boat, they must break into a Nazi prison to rescue Geoffrey. After averting many obstacles, they arrive in Fernando Po, only to learn that their plan of blowing up the ship won't work. So they decide to steal it.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is inspired by a non-fiction book containing details from Winston Churchill's papers, which were declassified in 2016. But rather than a stodgy re-telling, this movie has fun with it, flinging itself into absurdly gleeful action sequences and superhuman feats of derring-do. (Its story is similar to Operation Mincemeat, and, incidentally, both movies feature the future James Bond author Ian Fleming as a character.)

Things in this movie are probably a good distance from reality, including its admirable attempts at diversity, but the characters' scoundrel-like qualities are immensely appealing. (Despite their reputations, they are rarely rude or unpleasant.) And Ritchie keeps up an admirable juggling act with his many characters, while scattering the details of the mission cleverly throughout the story so that there's always a fresh obstacle to overcome. Ultimately, an unhealthy percentage of The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare consists of explosions and shooting or slicing up Nazis, rather than storytelling or characters, but somehow that's okay.

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