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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Rob Reviews "The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare"

After seeing The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, try to remind yourself that this is a Guy Ritchie film.  I ended up doing that multiple times DURING the film, and I don’t mean that in any way but with the highest of praise.


If you know Ritchie and his films ranging from Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels all the way up through The Gentlemen, there are certain things that remind the audience that he is behind the lens, but this film is a bit of a departure for his style.  I am not sure if this is part of an evolution of his style or simply a departure to fit the tone of its script, but I’m kind of okay with that either way.


Based on a true story from some of Winston Churchill’s uncovered notes, it’s World War II during a time where England is on the proverbial ropes as Hitler’s Germany is steamrolling just about everything in its way.  They have employed the U-boats that are cutting off any types of supplies that Churchill’s (played by Rory Kinnear) troops need to keep the war effort afloat, so he employs Brigadier Gubbins (Cary Elwes) to put together a team to sink a large supply ship that is currently parked off the coast of Africa.  This team cannot be recognized by the government as what they are trying to do could make the war that much worse for them, so they look to the incarcerated Gus March-Phillips (Henry Cavill) to get a rag-tag group of baddies to do the job alongside two undercover agents in Heron (Babs Olusanmokun) and Marjorie Stewart (Eliza González).  Time is of the essence, and both teams face their own challenges as they try to stop Hitler from a tighter grip on their section of the world and perhaps the world itself.


I REALLY dig this film.  Ritchie shoots this in a more “straight forward” style in contrast to the way he has done action in the past, and I really think this decision enhanced the story itself.  Without the herky-jerky and fast-motion action and story telling he tends to use, it is easier to focus on a very strong script from Ritchie, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, and Arash Amel based on the book from Damien Lewis (not the actor; that is spelled differently… trust me, we did the same thing).  Using the visual style he is known for simply would not fit here, and I think everyone involved knew that.  With this story, it is important to let what stands in front of the camera carry everything, and that is what we got to witness.


This cast keeps everything between the lines in a script that could make certain sequences seem larger-than-life and could upset the film overall.  Cavill carries a certain calm and cool that may be reminiscent of some clues dropped during the film that pay off in the “what happened since this story” titles at the end that forces his team to keep their cool for the most part as well.  Elwes also gets to be the type of character we mostly know him for with the right balance of smarm, strength, and loyalty to his prime minister that his character requires (man, I am REALLY struggling with avoiding spoilers here, and it’s pretty cool).  Alan Ritchson also shines here while Olusanmokun and González really make their storyline while mostly separate from the teams work in a way that does not detract from the overall story and mission that a number of other films like this fall short on.


There are obvious comparisons to The Dirty Dozen and Inglorious Basterds that will be made, and even though those may not be far off The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare really does stand apart in the genre.  While Basterds would be a great choice as a double-feature (especially for those of you that may have influence at your local drive-in), Ritchie constructs two hours of true fun and suspense that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.  It really should have its first viewing on as big of a screen as possible to take in all of it on every level.


And now I want to go see this at a drive-in.  Didn’t even think of that until I typed that a second ago.

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