The British military recruits a small group of highly skilled soldiers to strike against German forces behind enemy lines during World War II.

Chuck says:

Based on the book of the same name and recently unclassified documents, Guy Ritchie’s “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” is the latest fact-based entertainment to hit the big screen.  What that means is real events ar used as the foundation for a slightly exaggerated adventure in which the characters will be supplied with witty dialogue and the near superhuman ability to kill any enemy that crosses their path. Ritchie and his three co-writers provide more than enough crowd-pleasing moments in this sometimes curiously paced exercise, which is not only entertaining, but will likely prompt viewers to take a deep dive into the real-life exploits of its protagonists.

It’s 1942 and England is on the ropes in its conflict with the Axis powers. Bombing raids have put the populace on edge, little support is coming from other countries and vital imports are being intercepted by German U-Boats. With a cabinet of advisors who are suggesting he surrender to Hitler, Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Rory Kinnear) is forced to take drastic measures. He orders Brigadier Gubbins (Cary Elwes) and Commander Ian Fleming (Freddie Fox) to create a team of soldiers who will operate outside normal channels to take out the ship that supplies the U-Boats, which is stationed in Santa Isabelle, a part of French West Africa. If they succeed, they will get no credit for it. If they are captured, the British government will claim to have no knowledge of them or their mission.

The men are a disparate group whose skills manage to complement one another’s. Anders Lassen (Alan Ritchson) is a Danish soldier who’s a specialist with a knife as well as the bow and arrow, Geoffrey Appleyard (Alex Pettyfer) is an expert strategist, Freddy Alvarez (Henry Goulding) is a whiz at explosives, while Henry Hayes (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) can sail a boat in any conditions. Their leader, Gus March-Phillips (Henry Cavill), has bravado to spare, his courage and foresight indispensable to the success of the mission. While this group travels on an inconspicuous vessel to their destination, agents Majorie Stewart (Eliza Gonzalez(?)) and Alex Heron (Babs Olusanmokun) have gone ahead to gather insight on the Nazi base of operations, led by Heinrich Luhr (Til Schweiger).

While most of today’s adventure films contain action set pieces that occur every 15 minutes, Ritchie takes his time before showing his heroes involved in any derring-do. Of course, history dictates this as the group’s ocean voyage did take nearly two weeks. However, the film never lags as the director cuts back and forth between the soldiers, headquarters, and the advance team, one difficulty after another thwarting their efforts. A run in with a Nazi patrol boat and a prison break help enliven things along the way, while the cat-and-mouse game that ensues between Stewart and Luhr is engaging.

The plan to destroy the supply boat becomes a theft when it’s discovered its defenses have been reinforced, giving Ritchie the opportunity to deliver a rousing third act. Alternating between three groups of characters, each charged with completing a leg of the mission, the imaginatively choreographed action scenes trip one upon the other to create a finale that increases in pacing and excitement as it progresses.

A pithy sense of dark humor suffuses the film, which helps its more gruesome moments go down a bit easier and allows the actors to inject a bit of fun along the way. Wry comments and arched eyebrows abound as nazis fall to the left and the right, the requisite background of explosions a constant. The cast, as a whole, doesn’t really deliver performances as much as provide a significant presence in their roles. It isn’t a movie that requires emoting as much as reactions to all the stuff being blown up real good. All involved accord themselves in this area.

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” won’t be mentioned on any list of the greatest war films ever made but it’s an enjoyable genre entry buoyed by a smarter-than-usual script, compelling story, and well-executed action. That some of the characters were used by Fleming in his “James Bond” novels will likely generate interest for many to read up on their other real-life exploits.

3 Stars


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