Exceptionally well cast and directed by John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”), this handsome British production bogs down a bit in the personal lives of those responsible for the elaborate codenamed scheme, designed to convince Hitler that an allied invasion would be coming by way of Greece, not Sicily.
The steps leading to that prove alternately comical and outlandish, such as the organizers staring intently at someone who just might pass, in a photo, for their corpse. Montagu works with a woman in their office, Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald), to fabricate a detailed backstory for the dead man, in the process developing awkward feelings complicated by their personal situations.
Beyond the logistical hurdles, the team faces considerable skepticism from their superiors, with their conduit to Churchill, Admiral Godfrey (Jason Isaacs), ready to throw them overboard at a moment’s notice. (For his part, Churchill defines the stakes, observing, “The more fantastic, the more foolproof the plan must be.”)
The film thus operates on multiple levels, playing like an old-fashioned caper as well as a window into history. And like its inspiration, if there are hiccups here and there, when the smoke clears it’s hard to consider this delicious “Operation” anything but a rousing success.
“Operation Mincemeat” premieres May 11 on Netflix and is also playing in theaters in the UK.