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The lie that changed the course of history: Inside Operation Mincemeat

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During WWII, two intelligence officers devise a plan to use a corpse and false papers to outwit German troops, saving tens of thousands of lives. Digital editor Dan Jensen checks out a war drama that had it not been a true story, would seem too wild to believe.

THE MOST DECEPTIVE part of Operation Mincemeat is how tedious the first 15 minutes are to get through. The film introduces its characters through a lot of dialogue and not much action, which at times can become a tad dreary.

But once the main plot of the film kicks in, you’ll be treated to one of the most underrated films released this year. Operation Mincemeat is a fascinating and gripping account of an incredible World War II deception mission you might have never heard of.

In 1943, a scheme was devised to divert the German forces away from a planned Allied invasion of Sicily by making it appear the assault was to take place on the shores of Greece. In order to do so, a corpse was dressed up as a British officer who died at sea carrying top-secret documents outlining the false invasion, plans that needed to fall into German hands at any cost. The lives of tens of thousands of troops rest in the success of the operation, where one single mistake could bring the entire plan undone.

Directed by John Madden and featuring a stellar cast of actors including Colin Firth, Jason Isaacs and Kelly Macdonald, Operation Mincemeat does everything right to draw the viewer in and never let go. There’s the compelling aspect of a seemingly insane plan that really happened, an engrossing glimpse into what it takes to sell a lie and a somewhat soap-operatic love triangle that helps balance the story and keep the characters interesting.

Every role in the film is played to perfection. Colin Firth plays Ewen Montagu, a naval intelligence officer who, along with Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen), was tasked with devising a plot that was frowned upon by government and military superiors, yet was the only option left. Working with them is MI5 clerk Jean Leslie (Macdonald), who becomes the object of affection for the two officers. This is complicated by Montagu struggling through a broken marriage and Leslie’s own grief as a war widow. While not integral to the overall plot, it makes for some terrific character development.

The film also features a subplot involving a lieutenant commander by the name of Ian Fleming, who alternates between his time working on Operation Mincemeat and developing his first spy novel. There are some terrific moments involving him being introduced to Q Branch (an area specialising in spy gadgets) and discovering that he nicknamed his commanding officer “M” (after his mother being the most terrifying figure in his life). Any fan of the James Bond franchise will be thrilled to see the origins of the famous spy character and the subplot is subtle enough to never draw attention to itself.

Thanks to the excellent character development, the film manages to find several emotional beats throughout. The viewer genuinely feels for these people and wants nothing more than a successful outcome, which makes the story that much more rewarding. With a script penned by TV writer Michelle Ashford (in her feature film writing debut), Operation Mincemeat takes the viewer inside the complexity of making deception of this scale believable. The characters spend six months crafting the persona of Captain William Martin and his entire background in order to create a believable person to fool the Germans. What it takes to invent a life and make sure every detail is watertight is deeply fascinating, especially since this actually happened.

On a technical level, the film is faultless. The production design is completely authentic and rich, the cinematography superb and the editing flawless. Never once does the illusion of 1943 stop being convincing. Not that it really matters since the story is so engrossing, but the fact that so much attention to detail was put into the film shows how much the creators cared about telling this story.

Once you get through those first slow 15 minutes (which will likely not be as bad on subsequent viewings, knowing what’s to come) you’ll be rewarded with one of the best films this year, complete with edge-of-the-seat suspense, brilliant performances and a story that truly deserved to be committed to film. Even if you’re not a fan of war films, this is an absolute must-see.

Operation Mincemeat is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @DanJensenIA. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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