The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare – Review

Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare If you go into a Guy Ritchie film looking for subtlety – even if it’s a film about one of the most “deniable” missions of World War Two – you have come to the wrong place. From the violence to the costuming, everything about The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare feels hyper stylish and stylised. And whilst it has its moments, it’s perhaps not quite the slick, pacy action comedy the trailers would have you believe.

The film is based on Damien Lewis’ non-fiction account of a gang of rogues who set out to sink a German U-Boat as part of Operation Postmaster. Fully authorised by Winston Churchill, the plan was thought to be so insane that Churchill would be ousted as Prime Minister should it (a) fail or (b) be exposed as having his sign off. Henry Cavill stars as the leader of this gang, Gus March Phillips. Having been released from prison, he assembles Lassen (Alan Ritchson), “Apple” (Alex Pettyfer), Freddie (Henry Golding), Marjorie (Eiza González) and Heron (Babs Olusanmokun). Under the watchful eye of M (Cary Elwes) and Ian Fleming (Freddie Fox), the highly dangerous mission sets out on a Swedish sailboat for Nazi-occupied West Africa.

Watching this, you cannot help but make comparisons to the highly fictionalised Inglorious Basterds. There’s a tense opening stand-off with a high-ranking Nazi official; a flamenco-inspired soundtrack complete with jazzy high hat and Western style whistling; interweaving narratives all working towards one big final showdown; a terrible impression of Winston Churchill. But, if that’s the benchmark, then The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is always going to come up short. It’s not as slick as it should be nor as fun as the trailer makes out. The pacing takes several serious dips and the threat doesn’t ever feel tangible enough to allow tension to build. Even Henry Cavill seems surprisingly lacking in charisma for such a heavily Bond inspired role.

What the film does have going for it, however, is Alan Ritchson. As Anders Lassen, the Reacher actor is clearly having the time of his life. He’s taking Nazis out via bow and arrow; he’s slashing throats; he’s stamping on heads; at one point he even picks up an axe and, boy, can that man swing. Although he is built like a brick shithouse, as most action stars are these days, he doesn’t seem out of place. In fact, his build lends itself perfectly to Ritchie’s penchant for very stylised violence.

The costuming is equally stylish. Everyone looks like they’ve walked straight out of a catalogue. Cavill, with his thick cable knit sweater and waxed moustache, looks perfectly at home on a boat. There’s no using beetroot for lipstick for war-time Marjorie, who has the perfect scarlet cupid’s bow and sleek victory rolls to match. “Apple” and Freddie look just the right amount of sweaty in their vests or undershirts. Til Schweiger – the film’s Nazi villain – looks oddly impressive in swathes of cream linen. The slightly over-saturated colouring in the film simply adds to this rich palette of costuming and make up.

Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare There are also a couple of great one liners. Alex Pettyfer is introduced with his heavily bleeding nipples attached to electric clamps. “Couldn’t unplug me, could you?” he asks in his best jolly hockey-sticks voice, “Battery’s still on …” Cavill, too, makes a couple of quips about how stylish the Gestapo are and how much he covets one of their leather coats.

However, not even the short, sharp editing of the dramatic final shoot out can help pull The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare up by its (Army-issued) bootstraps. Its two hour runtime very much feels like two hours. There simply aren’t enough stand out performances to really invest you in the lives of any of these characters. It takes far too much time to get to the main point of the story and, although Til Schweiger is clearly playing the villain in the most hyperbolic way he can think of, it doesn’t lend any real sense of danger to the film.

Despite a couple of good set-pieces, fantastic costuming and the presence of Alan Ritchson, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is not one of Guy Ritchie’s best. It’s disappointing as this was such a highly anticipated film. But, overall, it does sadly feel like a bit of style over substance, old sport.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is yet to be given a UK release date.

Mary Munoz
Follow Me
Latest posts by Mary Munoz (see all)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.