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Guy Ritchie’s Latest Gem: ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’

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Guy Ritchie is one of my favorite directors, who makes movies with a real passion, and a unique Brit-humor. He made Sherlock Holmes, The Gentlemen, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and many more movies that people are still talking about. So when the trailer for The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare came out, I knew wanted to watch it as soon as I had a chance. 

[Warning: some spoilers for the film below]

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare draws inspiration from history

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare brings to the screen a very intriguing version of a real-life wartime exploits, drawing inspiration from Damien Lewis’ 2014 book Churchill’s Secret Warriors: The Explosive True Story of the Special Forces Desperadoes of WWII. But of course with some minor tweaks to make the story more paced, interesting and most important, more satisfying in the end to watch. The story is set in late 1941, at the height of World War II, when the United Kingdom was reeling under the relentless assault of Nazi Germany.

Historical figures like Brigadier Colin “M” Gubbins (Cary Elwes) or Winston Churchill (Rory Kinnear) and the unconventional operatives of “Operation Postmaster” come to life in this narrative. Gubbins, with the covert backing of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, orchestrates a daring mission to disrupt Nazi U-boat operations on the Spanish-controlled island of Fernando Po.

The mission, involving real-life characters such as Gus March-Phillips (Henry Cavill), Marjorie Stewart (Eiza González), Anders Lassen (Alan Ritchson) and Geoffrey Appleyard (Alex Pettyfer), is a mix of an audacity and ingenuity, showcasing the courage and tactical brilliance that characterized these wartime heroes. The narrative also shows a lot of involvement by Ian Fleming (Freddie Fox), whose experiences during the war would later inspire his creation of the iconic James Bond character.

The movie starts with the introduction to our main characters, a group of people who hate Nazis. They have their own motivations, but will do everything possible to help the Alliance weaken the Germans. The leader of the team is Major Gus March-Phillips, who is the opposite of every role that Henry Cavill has played. He is a brute force in the team, and his job is to make sure that everyone does their job.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare team
L to R – Alex Pettyfer, Henry Cavill, Alan Ritchson, Hero Fiennes Tiffin & Henry Golding in ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’ (Lionsgate)

Another member of the team that goes to Fernando Po is Henry Hayes (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a young Irishman who is the best sailor they have on their team. Freddy Alvarez (Henry Golding) is their explosives specialist and a great swimmer. During the story, we see how skilled he is at his job and timing the explosions.

The fourth person who joins the “Fernando Po journey” team is “The Danish Hammer” Anders Lassen. He is the bow and arrow specialist, prefers silent killings, but when everything around goes nuts, he does everything to kill Nazis, in very different, and unique ways.

The last to join the team (after being rescued from the Nazis) is Geoffrey Appleyard (Alex Pettyfer). He has a brilliant mind, and the knowledge they need to sink the U-Boats and destroy the Dutchess, and hit the Nazis where it hurts. Geoffrey is their master planner, master survivor and “a surgeon with a blade” that’s why he’s perfect for the team. 

The second team that’s already on Fernando Po are actress and a singer Marjorie Stewart (Eiza Gonzalez) and Heron (Babs Olusanmokun). They are there to plan a distraction for the Nazis in order for the Gus’ team to sink the ship. They have a separate story arc in which we learn more about them, and how important they are.

While a lot of characters in this movie are based on real-life historical figures, some of them, like Freddy, the big bad Nazi Commander Heinrich Luhr (Til Schweiger) or Heron were written strictly for this movie. Yet, they are an important part of this story and if you remove them from the equation, the whole story and character relations don’t work as well.

An exciting story offered in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

The movie itself, at first glance is just a spy action comedy. But it is much more. Throughout the movie we can understand that this story is very important and needs to be heard. If it wasn’t for the diary of Winston Churchill, we wouldn’t even know that those events took place, and that those people were heroes.

Clever dialogue, inspirations from previous projects and Ritchie’s signature humor, make this story even much better than I thought. The plot follows Gus and his team as they navigate treacherous waters to execute their sabotage mission. From rescuing a captured ally in the Nazi-controlled Canary Islands to outsmarting the SS commander Heinrich Luhr on Fernando Po, the film is a rollercoaster of suspense and action. Guy Ritchie’s way of telling the story by swiftly navigating between different places and story arcs makes it straightforward to follow what exactly is happening at the moment.

Eiza Gonzalez & Babs Olusanmokun in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare
Eiza Gonzalez & Babs Olusanmokun in ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’ (Lionsgate)

While we see Gus’ team traveling through waters and escaping/hiding from Germans and Brits, we know that Ritchie is smoothly and reasonably keeping much of their screen-time for the third act full of action. For the most part, we can see how Marjorie’s seductive espionage and Heron’s past and contacts are highlights of this movie. 

The finale is really well done. There were no unnecessary cliché moments or the forced involvement of motives that we didn’t need to watch. It was perfectly balanced.

Comparing it to previous Guy Ritchie’s movies, I have to say it’s one of those, that immediately, from the first second, I felt invested in watching it. When it’s over, I realized that I just spent 2 hours (that didn’t feel like it) and had a lot of fun. Which is a thing that can be said about many of Guy Ritchie’s movies. But The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is a project that doesn’t only satisfy viewers with its story and amazingly written characters, but also with the technical aspects of the film.

Another masterpiece from Guy Ritchie

Guy Ritchie is known for his distinctive style and penchant for blending action with humor, and brings this unique touch to The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. The film is a testament to his ability to create compelling narratives that combine realism with fast-paced and humorous storytelling. (such as seen in the Sherlock Holmes films and others).

The action sequences in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare are choreographed in incredibly satisfying ways. They offer a visual spectacle that complements the story’s dramatic tension. Despite some narrative tweaks and a few short subplots, the film manages to keep the audience engaged with its fast-paced storytelling and charismatic performances, culminating in a thrilling third act.

One last thing I love about this movie is the fantastic soundtrack composed by Chris Benstead, that encapsulates the nature and theme of the whole story. It’s a mix of a cowboy western music, with 20th / 21st century, spy thriller drama. And the main theme is something that I’ll be listening to for the rest of the month, every single day.

This movie is definitely in my top three Guy Ritchie projects, and I have no doubt I’ll be rewatching it very, very soon. It’s a mix of The Magnificent Seven with The Gentlemen, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Inglourious Basterds, which already sounds like a perfect movie to watch.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is in some theaters and is now available to stream on Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu, and other streaming platforms. Have you seen it yet? What did you think? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!

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Wiktor Reinfuss

Big fan of all sorts of pop culture stuff. I also enjoy ambitious cinema. Games, music and graphics are all within my interests. I have a great fondness for the Arrowverse series, especially The Flash.

Wiktor Reinfuss has 127 posts and counting. See all posts by Wiktor Reinfuss