Film Review: “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare”

 

  • THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE
  • Starring: Henry Cavill, Alan Ritchson
  • Directed by: Guy Ritchie
  • Rating: R
  • Running Time: 2 hrs
  • Lionsgate

 

Being a historian, I cringe when a film starts off with the words “based on a true story” or “inspired by true events” flashing across the silver screen before the movie starts. Typically, these films generate a misleading presentation of historical events and therefore distort the perception of what the reality of the situation really was. While British director Guy Ritchie’s new World War II action flick “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” begins with one those aforementioned statements, it’s clear from the start that this work of historical fiction does not take itself too seriously. While based on the 2014 book “Churchill’s Secret Warriors: The Explosive True Story of the Special Forces Desperadoes of WWII” by British author Damien Lewis, Ritchie focuses on taking us on a genuine thrill ride with a few laughs mixed as a plethora of Nazis are shot to pieces.

 

In late 1941, Great Britain was nearing a breaking point as Nazi Germany was repeatedly bombing its capital of London and its supplies being cut off by Nazi submarines. Desperate to put an end to the blockade, Brigadier General Colin “M” Gubbins (Cary Elwes), with the secret backing Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Rory Kinnear), enlists Major Gus March-Phillips (Henry Cavill) who is played as a bit of troublemaker that has a problem with authority. Gus knows he is the one holding the chips so he can select the members of his small team that is assigned the task of destroying an Italian supply ship at the Spanish island of Fernando Po, which would be a critical blow to Nazi submarines in the Atlantic. However, fearing such a mission might jeopardize Spain’s neutrality, there are those within Churchill’s government and military that are against the mission.

 

With the help of Danish officer Major Anders Lassen (Alan Ritchson, “Jack Reacher”) and others, Gus, who is portrayed as having a good time while killing Nazis, goes on an action-packed adventure that is not as dark as some of Ritchie’s previous films like “Snatch” or “Wrath of Man.” “Ministry” is more like the romp that was the two Sherlock Holmes films. Cavill is a delight to watch as he has a talented supporting cast around him, particularly in the form of Ritchson who plays Lassen as a pure killing machine complete with a bow and arrow.

 

One irony is that the main Nazi antagonist is played by German actor Til Schweiger. His character, Heinrich Luhr takes sadistic pleasure in killing Jews. A far cry from his role as the Nazi killer Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz in 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds.” His diabolical performance demonstrates his reputation as being arguably the best actor in Germany.

 

Overall, “Ministry,” while far from being historically accurate, does provide some great popcorn entertainment while also shedding some light on a mission that was only declassified after the turn of the century.

 

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” receives ★★★ out of five.

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