The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Alex Pettyfer, Alan Ritchson, Henry Cavill, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, and Henry Golding in THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE (Dan Smith/Lionsgate).

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare takes audiences to the origins of Black Ops warfare, not to mention James Bond, too.

I love a good World War II movie. Whether it’s fictional or based on a true story, we’re talking about The Greatest Generation. They rose up to the challenge to fight against evil. We’re losing more and more of this generation daily. The same goes for Holocaust survivors. Before we know it, we’ll only have books, films, documentaries because neither veterans or survivors will be around after a certain point. The USC Shoah Foundation is doing its job in making sure that as many Holocaust survivors will have their stories remembered for all time. Because of files being classified, some veterans didn’t have the opportunity to talk about what they did during the war–at least not in a public setting. They might not be able to tell their story but filmmakers certainly can. Thank you, Guy Ritchie!

Gus March-Phillipps (Henry Cavill) is recruited to lead the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) and gets to choose his team. Among them are master planner Geoffrey Appleyard (Alex Pettyfer), Anders Lassen, aka “The Danish Hammer” (Alan Ritchson), explosives expert Freddy “The Frog” Alvarez (Henry Golding), and expert sailor Henry “Haysey” Hayes (Hero Fiennes Tiffin). One of them just happens to be held by the Nazis so retrieving him is going to be easier said than done. In a way, this film is the James Bond origin story because of Ian Fleming’s (Freddie Fox) involvement. The mission–operating under the SOE (Special Operations Executive), a SAS forerunner–would be the first of many. In bringing their story to the screen, the filmmakers focus on the 1941 mission to steal Italian and German ships docked at the Spanish island of Fernando Po, off West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea.

Eiza González in THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE (Dan Smith/Lionsgate).

Marjorie Stewart (Eiza González) may have been an actress and singer but she also did her part during the war. In this case, her mission was to seduce Fernando Po’s Nazi commanding officer Heinrich Luhr (Til Schweiger) and keep him distracted. The mission is personal for Stewart because her mother’s relatives were German Jews. I cannot find anything about the actress when doing a Google search and the film implies that she married March-Phillipps, later becoming Lady Marling. Stewart worked undercover alongside Richard Heron (Babs Olusamokun) in planning prior to the SSRF arriving. Heron is helpful in bringing Kambili Kalu (Danny Sapani), a West African prince, aboard, Anyway, the film implies that she’s either Jewish or of Jewish descent and gets points for saying that Jews come from Judea. But anyway, if she is Jewish, why is a Jewish woman not portraying Stewart? Come on, Hollywood! Do better.

I owe a debt of gratitude for the participants of Operation Postmaster. They played a beneficial role in stopping the U-boats so that American ships could make their way to the European front. It would be one of many pivotal moments during the course of World War II. But without this course of events, there is no way of knowing how things would transpire. The Allied powers could not afford to lose. Speaking for myself, I lost way too many family members because of Hitler’s desire to exterminate the Jewish people in the Holocaust, including my 2nd great-grandmother, the sister of Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky. Make no mistake that the Nazis would have done the same with American Jewry had their forces reached America.

We are only really beginning to know the extent of British action during WWII because of British War Department files becoming declassified in recent years. One mission now in the public eye is Operation Postmaster. It was under UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Rory Kinnear) and a small group of military officials that the first-ever special forces organization was formed. One of their members would play a role in inspiring Ian Fleming to write the James Bond novels. This top-secret unit were unconventional in their tactics and techniques. They were going up against the odds because of entering waters with both British ships and the enemies. One wrong move and it could doom the war. But in any event, their mission was a success and I’m all the more grateful.

Guy Ritchie brings Damien Lewis’s book to the big screen and it features a solid balance of action and comedy. Of course, some of the comedy comes during the action and that’s perfectly okay. It also serves as a reminder that the Nazis were the bad guys. This mission in particular was taking place during a time when the odds were against Britain. If they failed, it would have been bad for all of Europe because U-boats would have prevented American ships from getting through the North Atlantic. Churchill’s military advisors were recommending appeasing Hitler. I’m sorry but what?!? Thankfully, Churchill ignored their recommendations and went about forming the SAS.

Another Bond easter egg is that Brigadier Colin Gubbins (Cary Elwes) is nicknamed M. If you look at the actions of the SSRF, it’s no surprise the Fleming would find inspiration in their actions. Like Bond himself, they go against the grain to get the mission accomplished.

Most of the characters are based on a real person but the following are fictional:

  • Richard Heron
  • Henry “Haysey” Hayes–his surname honors the real-life Graham Hayes.
  • Freddy Alvarez
  • Heinrich Luhr

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is another solid entry into WWII movie canon and shows heroism on display. It is entertaining in as much as it is educational.

DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie
SCREENWRITERS: Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson and Arash Amel & Guy Ritchie
CAST: Henry Cavill, Eiza González, Alan Ritchson, Alex Pettyfer, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Babs Olusamokun, Henrique Zaga, Til Schweiger, with Henry Golding and Cary Elwes, Freddie Fox, Rory Kinnear, Danny Sapani

Lionsgate will release The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare in theaters on April 19, 2024. Grade: 4/5

Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Buttondown.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.