de facto film reviews 3 stars

After cashing in his chips as a journeyman studio filmmaker for the better part of the 2010’s, director Guy Ritchie has been on a streak of his own modestly budgeted “Tuff Guy” genre flicks. Since 2020’s The Gentleman and 2021’s Wrath of Man, Ritchie has been making some of the best films of his entire career; fast and quick. Just last year, the filmmaker released two films within months of each other, the Jake Gyllenhaal-starring war drama The Covenant and the long-delayed Operation Fortune. His latest, largely based on the real-life mission, “Operation Postmaster”, which set out to destroy the main supply for Nazi U-boats, is another action flick that sits nicely within the filmmaker’s ouvre. Although it may be derivative of other WWII actioners, when Nazi-killing is this much fun, how can you really complain?

Courtesy Lionsgate

It’s 1941 and Hitler is dominating the seas with his fleet of U-Boats controlling all supplies coming in and out of the Atlantic. Facing heavy pressure to accept an offer from the Nazi’s, Winston Churchill (an unrecognizable Rory Kinnear) sponsors a top-secret, off-the-books mission headed by Brigadier Gubbins, codename “M” (Cary Elwes) and Ian Fleming (Freddie Fox) — yes, THAT Ian Fleming, who was a British Naval Intelligence officer at the time, to destroy two supply ships located on the Spanish island of Fernando Po. Recruited to man the mission is rogue soldier Gus March-Philipps (Henry Cavill), alongside other Nazi-killers such as the Danish Anders Lassen (Alan Ritchson), Freddy Alvarez (Henry Golding), Geoffrey Appleyard (Alex Pettyfer), Henry Hayes (Hero Fiennes Tiffin). This group of bruvs is sailing the sea on a small fishing boat, while Heron (Babs Olusanmokun) and Marjorie (Eiza Gonzalez) are on land attempting to infiltrate the local Nazi leaders, including Tig Schweigher’s Heinrich Luir. As always, things don’t go according to plan, causing the mission deadline to occur days earlier than anticipated.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is a true ensemble piece with every actor getting their fair share of moments to shine with plenty of charm to go around for everyone. Reuniting with his The Man From U.N.C.L.E. star, Ritchie gets a particularly great performance out of Henry Cavill. The former Man of Steel is giving a looser, more cheerful turn than we typically see from the actor. Cavill’s Gus is a commanding lead in a sea of strong supporting turns, but the actor relishes in utilizing his arsenal of talents as an action star. Reacher star Alan Ritchson is having a gas as the Danish brute, highly skilled with a bow and arrow. The macho sense of camaraderie among the actors calls to mind Ritchie’s early works like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but with a jovial love of Nazi killing. The film is also a strong showcase for character actor Babs Olusanmokun, known for his memorable bit roles in Dune and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Too Old to Die Young. The stunning Eiza Gonzalez is terrific in one of her finest roles to date, having to play a calculated spin on the classic film vixen.

Courtesy Lionsgate

Ministry is undoubtedly an Inglourious Basterds riff, mixed with men-on-a-mission films like Where Eagles Dare and The Guns of the Navarone, but Ritchie’s energetic sense of direction and cheeky tone makes this adventure stand on its own. Ritchie remains a solid director of action, with the set pieces here cleanly shot and edited with precision. This isn’t packed to the gills with action, with much of the runtime dedicated to setting up the big mission, making the sequences even more satisfying when they do arrive. The staging of these sequences is impressive, with Warfare ranging from close-combat fights with egregious stabbings, bow and arrow headshots, shootouts and a couple of well-placed explosives. The filmmaker also incorporates some moments of exquisite tension leading up to the climactic mission.

Ritchie is typically reliable when it comes to his pastiche work, and that’s still the case here. While not going overboard with it, Ritchie is clearly harkening back to a specific era of filmmaking. On-screen text flickers like its projected on film and music cues feel like they came straight from a Sergio Leone picture. For a 2 hour runtime, Ministry moves at a quick pace and never sags. Although the climax delivers plenty of goods, the wrap-up does feel slightly anticlimactic.

Courtesy Lionsgate

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is another blast from Guy Ritchie. Henry Cavill leads a great ensemble cast that delivers plenty of rousing and satisfying Nazi killing. It may not land among the top of Ritchie’s works, but this is still a hefty dose of fun.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is now playing in theaters.