June 21, 2024


2024 / 120 min
Review by Mr. Bonnie, the Bombardier😺

I think Guy Ritchie is back, though it doesn’t seem like a lot of people are paying much attention. Last year’s The Covenant was the director’s best effort in years…and the best action movie hardly anyone saw. 

Similarly, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare sort-of came and went in theaters without much notice or fanfare. That's too bad because Ritchie has put together another great action film, though this one's considerably lighter in tone. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an action comedy, but interspersed among the bombs, bullets and blood is plenty of levity and dry humor.

Loosely inspired by an actual British World War II mission, the story has an eclectic team of disgraced soldiers led by Gus March-Phillipps (Henry Cavill), ordered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill sail to a German-occupied African port island to destroy a German ship that supplies the U-boats. However, this mission isn’t sanctioned by the British government. If “Operation Postmaster” is unsuccessful, Germany will undoubtedly invade England, Churchill will be removed from office and the team will likely go to prison (if they survive at all).

Historically, this was apparently the first “black ops” mission ever undertaken, and March-Phillipps was the partial inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond (the author himself is represented as a minor character). Several other characters are based on real figures involved with the mission, including Alan Ritchson as slightly unhinged killing machine Anders Lassen, and Alex Pettyfer as Captain Geoffrey Appleyard, a POW sprung by the team - a side mission en route to the port - because he’s a skilled strategist. 

The Unwelcome Wagon.
Meanwhile, Richard Heron (Babs Olusanmokun) & Marjorie Stewart (Eiza Gonzalez) are undercover allies already at the port, attempting to gather intel from sadistic Nazi commander Heinrich Luhr (Til Schweiger). However, I suspect the names and the basics of the mission are as historically accurate as the film gets, which is fine with me. Want a history lesson? Read a book. Want a fast-paced, violent, Dirty Dozen-style action flick filled with quirky antiheroes? The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare will do nicely.

The action sequences are flashy, fiery and brutal, yet undercut by a fairly light tone, mostly exacerbated by the overall nonchalant behavior of the team. Cavill is especially amusing in this respect, acting as though facing an overwhelming number of Germans is simply another Tuesday, or sudden changes in plans are just a minor inconvenience. While this does tend to dilute the suspense (we never really fear for any of the principal characters), watching this likable group of guys instigate massive mayhem is pretty damn fun. 

As revealed just before the end credits, the real Gus March-Phillipps later pulled off several similar missions, which makes it sort of a shame The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare was under-seen. I, for one, would be up for revisiting these characters in a sequel or two. As one of Guy Ritchie's better recent films, this deserves a second life on home video.



FEATURETTE - The Ministry of Filmmaking is a 20 minute doc featuring interviews with various cast & crew, including director Guy Ritchie.


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