top of page
  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (A Movie Review)


Starring Henry Cavill, Eiza González, Alan Ritchson, Alex Pettyfer, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Babs Olusanmokun, Henry Golding, Cary Elwes, Til Schweiger, Henrique Zaga, Roger Snipes, Danny Sapani, Freddie Fox, Olaf Kayhan, Mert Dincer, Ethel von Brixham, Rory Kinnear, James Wilby, Henrique Zaga, Danny Sapani, Matthew Hawksley, Simon Paisley Day and Mark Oosterveen.

Screenplay by Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson and Arash Amel and Guy Ritchie.

Directed by Guy Ritchie.

Distributed by Lionsgate. 120 minutes. Rated R.

At the beginning of The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, there is a chyron which explains that this film is “based on a true story.” Apparently, the word “based” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. This is the Guy-Ritchie-ization of World History, in which a group of 15-20 “unofficial” British soldiers shoot, stab, garotte, explode and wreak havoc through hundreds or perhaps even thousands of Nazis and not one of our heroes gets injured, or slowed down in any significant way.

Now, I’m not going to lie, I was not familiar with the story that was the genesis of The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare before seeing this movie. However, one of the other critics at the screening I saw of the film had read the book on which it was based, and he assures me that this was a very loose, fantastical interpretation of what happened. In reality, people did bleed, sweat, cry and die to achieve this mission.

Even on the most basic level, this film is romanticized, with most of our soldiers being male-model handsome (although attractively scruffy) and the one woman being drop-dead gorgeous. The real pictures of the combatants are shown at the end and all of them were much less… ummm… photogenic.

However, if you are willing to divorce the facts from this supposedly factual film, and just look at it as a straight Guy Ritchie action/adventure saga, then I have to admit that The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is a lot of fun.

The story is based upon a long-hidden mission during World War II, which was ordered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. (What actually happened was not publicly revealed until 2016, long after pretty much everyone involved had died.) The Germans had stymied the rest of the European continent due to their U-boat submarines, which regularly sank or took over ships trying to bring passengers, weapons and supplies to the Allied forces.

Britain was on the verge of collapse and the United States refused to join the war until the U-boats were no longer a threat. Therefore, the British government decided to launch an off-the-books mission called Operation Postmaster to hobble the submarine fleet. They put together a band of renegade soldiers and criminals to go to the Spanish island of Fernando Po, off West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea. Once there, they planned to blow up an Italian ship which was transporting all of the submarine fleet’s weapons and supplies.

That part of the film’s story is (mostly) true. A lot of the rest is sheer fantasy.

The head of the mission was Gustavus Henry March-Phillipps (played by Henry Cavill), a loose-cannon soldier – according to the film, he had to be released from prison to take over the mission – who put together a band of similarly sketchy mercenaries to complete the mission.

They were to meet up with a gorgeous spy named Marjorie Stewart (Eiza González) who had her own grudge against the Nazis – she was a Jew whose family had been captured by the Germans. Her job was to seduce and betray the head of the Nazi forces in Fernando Po (Til Schweiger). Together they all put together an extremely complicated plan to distract the Nazis and attack the ship, although eventually most of their plans consist of going in, shooting, stabbing and killing as many people as get in their way.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is essentially World War II fan fiction. It is slightly less blatantly untrue than Quentin Tarantino's WWII fantasy Inglourious Basterds, but it is similarly enjoyable in a historical wish-fulfillment kind of way. Just don’t go in there expecting to learn the real story.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2024 All rights reserved. Posted: April 19, 2024.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page