THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE review by Mark Walters – Guy Ritchie crafts a raucous WWII adventure

THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE review by Mark Walters – Guy Ritchie crafts a raucous WWII adventure

Films about World War II are often told from an American perspective, but occasionally we see productions with a British slant. The new Guy Ritchie movie titled THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE is actually based on a book by Damien Lewis chronicling Winston Churchill recently revealed diaries that mention his use of an “unofficially” sanctioned team of assassin used to thwart the Nazis during World War II. The leader of the team was even said to be a big influence on Ian Fleming for his creation of James Bond… Fleming is actually a supporting character in the film as well.

As the British government, under Churchill’s direction, assembled a team of dangerous individuals, some fresh out of prison, they task them with taking out Nazi bases and freight ships to weaken their opposition. Led by Gus March-Phillips (Henry Cavill), the team creatively finds their way to their various targets, but soon realizes they may be outnumbered, and outmatched by tactical updates within the German army.

THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE feels like a war movie directed by Sergio Leone, complete with an Ennio Morricone-esque score, and for those reasons I loved it. It’s a sort of throwback to similar films like THE DIRTY DOZEN or WHERE EAGLES DARE, but feels more fun and at times quite clever and amusing. Guy Ritchie has always been a bit hit or miss for me, but this is a case where I got what he was going for, and really enjoyed the ride. Everyone in the cast is clearly having a blast with the material. The diverse cast are all endearing and a joy to watch. Oddly Cavill, the film’s lead, is a tad underdeveloped and at times bland when compared to the other more memorable characters.

Alan Ritchson (REACHER) is particularly likable here, playing the hulking Anders Lassen, a man who takes great joy in killing as many Nazis as possible. Eiza Gonzalez (BABY DRIVER) is also quite interesting as a Jewish woman working for the British government as a spy infiltrating the mind of the German’s leading officer Heinrich Luhr (played with sadistic perfection by Til Schwoeger). The rest of the cast includes solid performances by Henry Golding, Alex Pettyfer, and Cary Elwes… plus Freddie Fox as Ian Fleming. But the two standout performances here are Babs Olusanmokun as a British spy masquerading as a casino owner, and Rory Kinnear who is terrific and unrecognizable as Winston Churchill.

The film is quite violent and features plenty of action, always with a sense of excitement and fun, even in the more harrowing sequences, but it’s one shortfall is the somewhat lackluster ending – lots of action leading up to a kind of calm finish, even if it is still fairly satisfying. For those who like these types of movies, it’s still a pleasing experience, and one of Ritchie’s better films in recent memory. Comparisons to INGLORIOUS BASTERDS are inevitable, but while that Tarantino movie is also violent and fun, THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE feels more like a classic action flick that stands on its own. I liked it a lot, and based on the cheers from our screening audience, I wasn’t alone.


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