The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

I like it when a new action movie that’s not attached to an established series comes out. I like new originals, and I like fun action movies. When the “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” trailer dropped, I knew I had to see it. Henry Cavill is great, and my man crush on Alan Ritchson demanded it. I like seeing Nazis take hits, and I don’t mind a good laugh and an action movie that doesn’t take itself super seriously.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is based loosely on actual events. The film follows a mission known as Operation Postmaster (which wasn’t declassified until 2016), and while the mission is heavily dramatized, the story is somewhat accurate. Specific details are true. For example, the British Government did not approve of the raid and declared it a violation of Spanish neutrality. Major Gus March-Phillips indeed set sail to Africa with five men on a fishing vessel, and they indeed succeeded.

crew on ship
This crew of madmen takes on the Nazis.

The fictionalized account gets its gusto in everything in between. To avoid too many spoilers, let’s give you the bottom line up front: It’s a fun action flick with great pacing and a charming cast. It’s predictable, and while not revolutionary, it’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Two Hours of Fun

The film is likely one of those action movies that will get forgotten over time and have a cult following. It’s not John Wick with over-the-top stunts and doesn’t have the memorable fight scenes of movies like “The Raid.” The dialog is fine, fun, and light, but you won’t confuse it for “Heat.” The movie’s main problem is that it doesn’t seem ambitious. It doesn’t attempt to be different; it’s just a competent, well-made film.

The film has the classic A Plot and B Plot. One plot follows our intrepid team of men led by Henry Cavill’s Gus March-Phillips. They are a mix of soldiers and criminals who really hate Nazis. The B Plot follows SOE agents Mr. Heron and Marjorie Stewart as they act as the infiltrators to allow the five-man wrecking crew to wreck.

henry cavill on boat
Henry Cavill plays Gus March-Phillips, a real commando in WW2.

The A Plot is always entertaining, but at times, the B Plot feels like a slog. Luckily, they fly between the two. The B plot feels almost passionless, and it’s hardly any fun compared to the A Plot. Watching Cavill laugh manically at a Nazi joke before mowing him down with a Sten gun juxtaposes with scenes meant to generate tension but fall flat with the SOE Agents.

Small little bits are memorable. For example, Ian Fleming is fictionalized as a handler of the men, which was what the real Fleming did. Gus March-Phillips is likely the man Fleming based James Bond on.

Further, the bad guys aren’t always Nazis but British bureaucrats seeking to appease Hitler. One of the few interesting takes in the film is the Brit’s attempt to stop the raid.

ritchson with bow
A bow was actually used by the commando Ritchson plays.

The movie does lack a memorable villain. Til Schweiger plays the main Nazi bad guy, but he falls flat. The movie gives him barely anything to do. He’s a bad guy, and that’s it. Nothing else is known, and he’s never a force to be reckoned with.

Five Dudes Having Fun

I realize I sound really critical of the film, but I truly enjoyed it and saw that it could have been a lot more. I will say that Guy Ritchie keeps the movie at a decent pace. The team of dudes completing the mission seem to have great chemistry. They joke and laugh and kill like old friends.

We have Cavill as the leader, Ritchson as the tank, a frogman, a sailor, and a soldier. Each gets something to do, and each is distinct and fun. Admittedly, Ritchson and Cavill get the most action and are the most entertaining. Ritchson gets to do lots of stunts and lots of fighting with a bloody, gory knife, which is good fun.

Henry cavill silly
The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously.

When it comes to the action, it’s very Guy Ritchie. It’s fun, and the heroes never seem to be in much danger. They move through violent encounters effortlessly, and they always keep their cool. They kill Nazis with ease and seem to have fun doing it. The movie doesn’t take things too seriously, and watching the team slice, dice, and shoot their way through the film is fun and entertaining.

The movie is at its best when the action is moving. That’s when it really shines. That’s what makes the B plot such a slog. I want more of the five dudes having fun while killing Nazis and less of the spy chic.

grenade soldier
Alan Ritchson plays a bloodthirsty Swede.

If you want a fun action flick, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is for you. It’s fun, but it’s not exactly the most memorable movie. It’s very Guy Ritchie, but it’s set in World War 2 instead of the British underworld.

The Guns of The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

We gotta talk about the guns. World War II buffs won’t be disappointed. The team of rogues is British, so it’s no surprise they all carry Sten MK II (S) guns. These are 9mm, integrally suppressed submachine guns. They are crude, cheap, and quick to produce but surprisingly effective and reliable. The guns are hardly ever aimed and often fired from the hip, although the film featured very realistic leather wraps for the suppressors.

silenced sten gun
The gun does not portray suppressors realistically.

Sidearms seem to be limited to suppressed M1911s, which are a bit anachronistic. As far as I know, they didn’t have Nielsen devices that would have allowed the short recoil pistols to function properly. We also see a few Lee Enfields and plenty of Nazi MP-40s and KAR 98s. Some African allies of the British force carry Thompsons and S&W revolvers.

MP 40 in action
Our SOE agent, Miss Marjorie, is skilled with an MP-40.

We don’t see anything silly that stands out. Our SOE agents are armed with small pistols. Mr. Heron carries a Baby Browning-type pistol on a spring-loaded arm rig, and Miss Marjorie Stewart carries a double derringer she makes good use of.

Want a Little More?

If you’re like me and have enjoyed the film, there is a book that tells the true story of The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare written by Damian Lewis. This movie is based on that book, and I can’t wait to read my way through it. I like the film; it’s a fun romp, but I fear that a fun romp might not be enough these days. In a world where John Wick exists, can a fun, charming action flick succeed? I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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