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Operation Mincemeat: A Dead Man, a Crazy Plan and James Bond’s Birth

Matthew Macfadyen as Charles Cholmondeley, Colin Firth as Ewen Montagu, and Johnny Flynn as Ian Fleming in "Operation Mincemeat."
Matthew Macfadyen as Charles Cholmondeley, Colin Firth as Ewen Montagu, and Johnny Flynn as Ian Fleming in “Operation Mincemeat.” Netflix

It’s 1943. The Allies are determined to break Hitler’s grip on occupied Europe, and need to plan an all-out assault on Sicily. But how can those forces attack a land mass without the invasion force facing a potential massacre? 

The responsibility of providing the answer falls to two remarkable intelligence officers, Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen) who end up tying the task to an unlikely secret agent: A dead man.

Operation Mincemeat is the true story about the most inspired and improbable disinformation strategy of WWII, dreamed up by two British officers defying logic, risking thousands of lives, and pushing the nerves of its creators to their breaking point, all to alter the course of a war which Germany was winning.

The odd name derives from the actual operation and the Ben McIntyre book of the same name, capturing a remarkable (and desperate) effort to turn the tide of the war in Sicily, a hotbed of Nazi occupation. 

“In stories of war, there is that which is seen and that which is hidden,” Johnny Flynn’s Ian Fleming says in the trailer, released Oct. 5. Yes, that Ian Fleming, who is conspicuously writing “spy-stories” in the clip. One can only presume that the protagonist is James Bond.

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Besides Flynn as Fleming, director John Madden reunites with his good friend (and neighbor), Firth, with the pair working together first on the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love. Writer Michelle Ashford (The Pacific) provides the script for a starry cast that includes Kelly Macdonald (No Country for Old Men), Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey), and Simon Russell Beale as Winston Churchill. 

The film follows Montagu and Cholmondeley as they create the dubious strategy to equip a corpse with classified communications and make sure that he washes up on the shores of fascist Spain. The dead man is supposed to be an army major, the planted papers detail the fake British plan to invade Greece, and the strategy only works if the ‘discovered’ documents fall into the highest of Nazi hands. Otherwise, a slaughter likely waits invading soldiers.

“I may vomit,” Macfadyen as Cholmondeley says.

“I may vomit with you,” Firth as Montagu says.

The improbable tale of Operation Mincemeat comes to U.K. theaters in January 2022 and to Netflix at as an yet unreleased 2022 date.

“In the hidden war, the truth is protected by a bodyguard of lies. Its soldiers unseen, its heroes unsung. This is our war,” Flynn as Fleming intones.

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