The Ministry of Ungentlemenly Warfare

Directed By Guy Ritchie

Starring – Henry Cavill, Alan Ritchson, Alex Pettyfer

The Plot – A true story about a secret British World War II organization; the Special Operations Executive. Founded by Winston Churchill, their irregular warfare against the Germans helped to change the course of the war, and gave birth to modern black operations.

Rated R for strong violence throughout and some adult language.

The Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2024) Official Trailer – Starring Henry Cavill (youtube.com)

POSITIVES

Certain directors wield a distinct vision that makes their films easily distinguishible, and Ritchie is certainly no different in this regard. With an abundance of personality and rampant brutality, “The Ministry of Ungentlemenly Warfare” is more of the same from the heralded director, but not in a negative condontation of the term. Instead, his films that refuse to ever take themselves too seriously feel made for the silver screen, if even just to supplant a fun element to escapism that enriches the experience, all the while reaching once more for the cloud of mystery surrounding European history that he grew up adoring. In this instance, it’s the British intelligence war against the Nazi’s, a story that’s been told a million times in cinema, but rarely from a naval perspective, which unearths many fascinating insights and dynamics between sides that are brought to life energetically with Ritchie’s exaggerated brand of emphasis that vividly and eagerly exhillarates his audience. When this film is at its best, all of the comedic components of dark and twisted humor register accordingly, and the intensity of the action, despite often being used as a punchline to the aforementioned humor, lands quite an impactful thud in its unflinching depiction, whether with rivetingly detectable camera work or blanketing sound designs that surmize consequences where the visuals refuse to get overtly gruesome. In addition to this, the production design is seamlessly transformative in depicting the World War II era of European history, with everything from costumes to hair and make-up, to even set designs sparing no cent to visually immerse us into this world of so much spunk and personality that Ritchie carelessly indulges in. While each of these components firmly imbed reality and consistency to the world we’re feverishly experiencing, the merit in score from longtime Ritchie collaborator Christopher Benstead simply can’t be understated, with a wide range of versatility in instruments and genres that repeatedly shift the tonal capacities inside of the scenes and sequences they underline with urgency and atmosphere, all without two compositions that ever feel remotely repetitive or similar in their structure or evolution. From westerns, to spy thrillers, to even the orchestral boom of war epics, Benstead commands an instrumental siesta that never sleeps on the integrity of scoring so much intense devastation, and while tension may be an element most noticeably missing from the engagement, for reasons that are out of Benstead’s responsibilities, his score comes the closest to registering it, as a result of the scope for stakes that it continuously refuses to ever lose sight of. As for momentum throughout the two hour run time, the film is blessed tremendously with this valuable group dynamic that plays as close to the cool factor as humanly possible, with a palpable chemistry between them that feels lived-in with the kind of earned connection that can only be attained in bonding throughout so many death-defying missions. Bravery is certainly one thing, but this group borders on crazily mad, as the movie frequently suggests, though a crazed demeanor that never obscures the importance and strategies of the mission at hand, instead articulating each of them with their own unique measures for macabre that will undoubtedly surface throughout sequences serving as virtual showcases for these three-dimensional actors and actresses who breathe so much life into their characterizations. On that topic, Ritchie assembles a dream team ensemble that not only bring these fiercely dangerous and charismatic characters to life, but also offer against type turns for quite a few of them that opened my eyes to new possibilities in the future of their project explorations. Cavill once more brings the cool factor as Gus, with relaxed deliveries and increasing physicality that makes him an ideal protagonist, especially with a director like Ritchie who values each of these respective traits equally. Then there’s Ritchson and Eiza Gonzales, who go against the grain of their typical typecasting for two portrayals that I felt effortlessly stole the show from their counterparts. For Ritchson, it’s remarkable that this brutish mover and shaker was the same man who just played an emotionally ailing father in “Ordinary Angels”, especially considering his turn here is of the brutish muscle that this group frequently depends upon to do all of the physical heavy lifting. Ritchson’s physical feats are only surpassed by an unforeseen humbling sensitivity that casually hints towards the character’s darker side, in turn resulting in therapeutic exercisms of his internal demons that Ritchie takes full advantage of. As for Eiza, it’s easy to see how her beauty would manipulate male suitors into a false sense of security, but appreciatingly the film supplants no shortage of cunning intelligence or articulance for sharpshooting to her design, which Gonzales uses to defer the ages old conventions of being just another damsel in distress for the movie’s plot devices.

NEGATIVES

While “The Ministry of Ungentlemenly Warfare” is a good film, it trails noticeably from being a great one, as a result of occasional mistimed executions that flounder its potential, leading to a two hour engagement that feels the weight of that distance, despite so much personality and violence littered throughout the occasion. On that humor, the boldness and dependency of its usage during the opening act unfairly paints an improper portrait during the opening act, which eventually withers with a far greater dependency on drama as the material evolves. This would be great for stakes and circumstances of the conflict if done believably, but the aforementioned cool factor dynamic of this group to never break a sweat or to quickly improvise when the occasional mission aspect doesn’t go their way, is compromising towards garnering any kind of atmospheric tension to the conflict, especially with the Nazi’s in depiction feeling so one-dimensional and easy to overcome for five guys who frequently devastate them. It almost feels counterproductive that the film makes this group so dominating, as the question surmizes of why the allied forces didn’t just use them to defeat millions of solidiers on the battlefields of World War II, especially in that they go almost flawless in the extent of this supposedly dangerous and life-threatening mission. In addition to a lack of palpable tension to balance the overwhelming dependency on humor, the storytelling and framing during the initial opening act falls a bit into clumsy territory, as it deviates between various timelines to unearth these exposition dumps that abruptly halt the movie’s momentum in progression. It’s especially noticeable because the rest of the film is free from this overlapping structure, thankfully, but the initial steps to building character and predicament with this group comes at a cost to convolutedly cluttered waters, resulting in more patience than the movie earns to that point in the engagement. Finally, despite there being an abundance of story and history that the film frequently imbeds to the foundation of the world-building in frame, the film does feel about fifteen minutes too long, especially during an aforementioned dramatically-dependent second half that dooms the film to generic action movie waters without the humor that allowed it to stand out. While I was never truly bored with the experience, I feel like the urgency of the mission attained during the opening act feels sacrificial, especially with the surprising shift in focus towards Gonzales’ infiltrating of the Nazi party, with too many scenes dedicated to the development of this one-dimensional antagonist. If the script combined many of these conversations, it would’ve flowed more smoothly to the integrity of the audience’s investment, allowing it to effortlessly taste the stakes of what continuously hangs in the balance.

OVERALL
“The Ministry of Ungentlemenly Warfare” is another gut-wrenchingly violent and cool-as-a-cucumber installment to a career of British action movies that Guy Ritchie has inspired a career out of. With a committed cast down for anything, as well as big budget production values enacting limitless explosions and transformative visuals of the World War II era of Europe, Ritchie is able to balance some of the film’s improper judgments of tone and transition that periodically test audience patience, in turn inspiring another ferociously fun and frenzied installment that could only come from one visionary.

My Grade: 7/10 or B-

3 thoughts on “The Ministry of Ungentlemenly Warfare

  1. This looks amazing to me. The cast members I could see clearly enough in the trailer to recognize are all ones I’ve enjoyed in other projects immensely….definitely one I’ll look into.

  2. I really enjoyed this film! I thought that the action and acting was really well done, and it was neat to see the real life people at the end. The plot was thin, but entertaining, and it had some tense moments that kept you interested. Definitely worth a watch!

  3. Your review may have tipped me towards watching this someday. You and I know my indifference towards general action movies but this sounds like one that is slick and cool and full of personality, despite suffering from some flaws that are known in other action movies. Might slip this in an end of year watch catch up! Excellent review!

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