Operation Mincemeat Parent Guide
The stellar cast and script illuminate a little-known part of history with warmth, wit, and deep humanity.
Parent Movie Review
It’s 1943 and the Allies are determined to free Europe from the Nazis. The most obvious point of attack is Sicily, which would give the British a staging ground to liberate the rest of Italy. This is also obvious to the Germans, so Sicily is occupied by large numbers of Axis troops. To succeed, the British must persuade the Nazis that they are planning to attack in another location, but German intelligence will be on the lookout for red herrings, so any British misdirection efforts will have to be meticulous, unexpected, and completely watertight.
Enter Project Mincemeat. Suggested by Flight Lieutenant Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew McFadyen) and Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth), this plan involves finding a dead body, disguising it as an officer, and giving it a briefcase containing faked intelligence documents, before letting the corpse wash ashore in Spain. From there, the information in the briefcase will make its way through Germany’s spy network until it reaches Adolf Hitler. If the corpse and the materials are sufficiently convincing, perhaps Germany will redirect its defensive efforts to Greece, saving tens of thousands of Allied soldiers on the beaches of Sicily. If the plot fails, Winston Churchill warns that “history herself will avert her eyes from the slaughter”.
Movies like this are the reason I love cinema. Not only does this production illuminate a little-known part of history, it does so with warmth, wit, and deep humanity. Montagu is the main character in this ensemble story, and the film deftly handles his pain at the cracks in his marriage, the departure of his wife and children to find safety in America, his worries about his brother’s questionable loyalty, and his desperate need to do his duty both to his country and to save his fellow Jews. Despite the focus on Montagu, other characters are treated with surprising nuance despite the time constraints and cast size. Cholmondeley is clever, awkward, and envious, bearing the burden of a distraught, grieving mother. MI5 clerk Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald) is determined to earn “a seat at the table” and struggles with her growing attraction to Montagu. Even Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), who would later write the James Bond novels, has a part to play in the scheme. (Fans of the Bond franchise will get a kick out of the Easter eggs scattered through the show.)
The fascination of this film comes in the details. The intelligence officers throw themselves into perfecting the backstory for their corpse, whom they have named Captain William Martin. They provide photos, letters, receipts, ticket stubs, and other “pocket litter”. As the colleagues work together to create Martin’s “legend”, parts of their own lives and hearts get woven into his fictitious biography. Their interactions are poignant, revealing, and sometimes funny, and make the most of the cast’s tremendous talent. This is yet another British history film that reveals the incredible depth of the island’s acting bench.
Parents or teachers considering the film for teen viewing should be aware that there are two scenes of sexual activity in an espionage context: the people involved are clothed and there is no explicit detail. There are also frequent episodes of social drinking and some drunk driving. Surprisingly, profanity is infrequent, but there are three sexual expletives. Overall, this is a suitable film for most teens and for adult fans of history or espionage movies.
In a voice-over, Ian Fleming introduces the contest between the British and German intelligence agencies: “A battleground in shades of gray, played out in deception, seduction, and bad faith. This war is a wilderness of mirrors in which the truth is protected by a bodyguard of lies.” Somehow, in the alchemy of film, this story manages to illuminate courage, integrity, creativity, loyalty, and the best of humanity in a time of great peril.Directed by John Madden. Starring Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Johnny Flynn, Penelope Wilton, Jason Isaacs, Mark Gatiss, Hattie Morahan. Running time: 128 minutes. Theatrical release May 11, 2022. Updated May 10, 2022
Watch the trailer for Operation Mincemeat
Rating & Content Info
Why is Operation Mincemeat rated PG-13? Operation Mincemeat is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for strong language, some sexual content, brief war violence, disturbing images, and smoking.
Violence: There are scenes of people looking at corpses. There is mention of suicide. There is a photo shoot with a corpse. The partially decomposed face of a dead man is briefly visible. There is a brief and mildly gruesome autopsy scene, involving the removal of intestines. A person threatens to shoot someone in the head. A man pushes another man against a wall. There are brief moments of battlefield violence: soldiers fall to the ground, but graphic wounds are not shown.
Sexual Content: A fully clothed man and woman kiss passionately. The woman sighs in ecstasy and writhes against the man: activities below the waist are not visible. In a very dimly lit scene involving two fully clothed men, one fondles another’s genitals, no nudity or graphic details are seen. A married man briefly kisses a woman.
Profanity: There are three sexual expletives and three terms of deity in the script.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults drink alcohol in social settings and alone. A man gets drunk and drives recklessly. There are frequent scenes of people smoking as is accurate for the period.
Page last updated May 10, 2022
Operation Mincemeat Parents' Guide
What do we learn about the lives and emotions of the intelligence officers through the letters and other materials they provide for “Captain Martin”?
The plot contains a significant ethical issue around the body used for the deception. What do you think of the way the officers behaved? Do you think they could or should have done things differently?
For more information about Project Mincemeat, you can check the following resources:
Wikipedia: Operation Mincemeat
The Mirror: “My father’s dead body ruse sent Adolf Hitler on the road to defeat during WW2”
BBC: Operation Mincemeat: The incredible plot that tricked Hitler
Radio Times: Is Operation Mincemeat based on a true story?
History Extra: Operation Mincemeat: how a corpse duped Hitler
History.com: Invasion of Sicily
Loved this movie? Try these books…
There are several books that deal with this successful deception.
Ewen Montagu wrote his own account of the scheme in The Man Who Never Was. (This book was later released as a film.)
Ben Macintyre researched and wrote the New York Times bestseller, Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory. This is the book that was used as the basis for this film.
For a broader picture of the Sicilian invasion, you can read The Invasion of Sicily 1943 by Jon Diamond.
Related home video titles:
For a recent British historical thriller focused on the immediate pre-war years, you can watch Munich: The Edge of War. This superbly acted piece centers around Neville Chamberlain’s doomed negotiations with Adolf Hitler and the efforts of one of his staffers to alert him to the true evils of Nazi Germany.
The Darkest Hour is also set in the Second World War, focusing on Winston Churchill and the Dunkirk crisis. The horrors of the front are shown in detail in Dunkirk.
The intelligence services provided critical aid to the Allied war effort. A Call to Spy tells the story of the British decision to use women as spies behind enemy lines.
The Imitation Game depicts British efforts to crack Nazi codes and how that work led to the development of the first computers.