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At The Movies: Churchill’s secret soldiers

All is fair in love and war.

That’s what makes “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” a bit disingenuous if not downright cynical.

There is little gentlemanly about warfare.

The clumsily-titled movie is based on the similarly clumsily-titled book, “Churchill’s Secret Warriors: The Explosive True Story Of The Special Forces Desperadoes of WWII” (2014), by Damien Lewis, award-winning historian, war reporter and author.

Clumsy as it may be, the pedigree of the movie and book is fascinating, depicted in photographs of the real persons, shown at the movie’s conclusion.

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” movie and book are based on the declassified files of Operation Postmaster, code name of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (SOE).

One of SOE’s top-secret missions was to steal the Duchessa D’Aosta, a merchant ship that supplied Nazi Germany U-boats. The year was 1942. The ship was based in the port of Fernando Po, Spanish Guinea (modern-day Bioko) in West Africa.

The military operation to stop U-boats was key to control of North Atlantic shipping lanes. Supply ships, troop transports and refugee ships were frequent targets of U-boats.

Churchill ironically dubbed the SOE the “ministry of ungentlemanly warfare.” The SOE is believed to have inspired Ian Fleming, a naval intelligence officer who worked with the SOE, to write the James Bond spy novels. Fleming is a character in “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” The SOE is one of the first, if not the first, special ops or black ops military operations.

The Ministry is led by Britain’s Gus March-Phillipps (Henry Cavill). Gus March-Phillipps is said to be the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s Agent 007 James Bond.

In the movie, the Ministry includes Denmark’s Anders Lassen (Alan Ritchson), Freddy Alvarez (Henry Golding), Geoffrey Appleyard (Alex Pettyfer) and Henry Hayes (Hero Fiennes).

Other characters in the film include Majorie Stewart (Eiza González), Mr. Heron (Babs Olusanmokun), Heinrich Luhr (Til Schweiger), Winston Churchill (Rory Kinnear), Ian Fleming (Freddie Fox) and Brigadier General Gubbins (Cary Elwes), the latter who inspired the character M of James Bond movies and novels.

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” recalls some of the great Hollywood movies about Allied missions behind enemy lines during World War II, including, “Where Eagles Dare” (1968), “The Dirty Dozen” (1967), “The Great Escape” (1963) and “The Guns of Navarone” (1961).

Director Guy Ritchie (“Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant,” 2023; “The Gentleman,” 2019; “Aladdin,” 2019; “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” 2015; “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” 1998) directs in a by-the-book style that balances quirky characters, humorous quips and lots of brutal war-action violence.

The screenplay by Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (Oscar nominees, original screenplay, “The Fighter,” 2011), Arash Amel (Primetime Emmy nominee, “Grace of Monaco,” 2015) and Ritchie, is based on the book by Damien Lewis.

The cast is solid. Most memorable are Henry Cavill (“Argylle,” 2024; “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” “Man of Steel,” 2013); Eiza González (“Godzilla vs. Kong,” 2021) and Alan Ritchson (“Ordinary Angels,” 2024; “Fast X,” 2023).

The soundtrack by Christopher Benstead (Oscar, sound mixing, “Gravity,” 2014) is reminiscent of the spaghetti-western stylings of Ennio Morricone (for example, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” 1966) right down to a solo of someone whistling. The movie’s title letters design even echoes a western movie theme.

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” should be of chief interest to fans of Henry Cavill, Guy Ritchie and World War II history-based movies.

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare,”

MPAA Rated R (Restricted Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.) for strong violence throughout and some language; Genre: Action, Drama, War; Run Time: 2 hours. Distributed by Lionsgate Films.

Credit Readers Anonymous:

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” was filmed in Antalya, Turkey, from February to April 2023.

At the Movies:

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” was seen in the Dolby Cinema At AMC, AMC Center Valley 16.

Theatrical Movie Domestic Weekend Box Office,

May 3-5: In case you missed it, the summer movie season is underway. “The Fall Guy,” starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt,” rose to No. 1, opening in 4,002 theaters with $28.5 million, which pundits say is less than expected.

Meanwhile, May the 4th was with the 25th anniversary re-release of “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace” (1999), opening at No. 2 with $8 million in 2,700 theaters. The movie’s box overall office gross is put at $1 billion.

3. “Challengers” dropped two places, from its one-week at No. 1 to No. 3, with $7.6 million in 3,477 theaters; $29.4 million, two weeks. 4. “Tarot,” opening, $6.5 million in 3,104 theaters. 5. “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” dropped two places, $4.5 million in 2,884 theaters; $188 million, six weeks. 6. “Civil War” dropped two places, $3.5 million in 2,689 theaters; $62 million, four weeks. 7. “Unsung Hero” dropped five places, $3 million in 2,832 theaters; $13.1 million, two weeks. 8. “Kung Fu Panda 4” dropped one place, $2.4 million in 2,380 theaters; $188.3 million, nine weeks. 9. “Abigail” dropped four places, $2.3 million in 2,638 theaters; $22.7 million, three weeks. 10. “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” dropped two places, $1.8 million in 2,025 theaters, $109.9 million, seven weeks. 11. “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” dropped five places, $1.6 million in 2,068 theaters, $18.4 million, three weeks.

Movie box office information from Box Office Mojo as of May 5 is subject to change.


May 10:

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,”

PG-13: Wes Ball directs Freya Allan, Kevin Durand, Dichen Lachman, Lydia Peckham and William H. Macy in the Action, Adventure, Science-Fiction film. “A young ape goes on a journey that will that will lead him to question everything he’s been taught about the past and make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike,” states the movie’s advance publicity. It’s the ninth ”Planet of the Apes” film.

“Not Another Church Movie,”

R: Johnny Mack directs Jamie Foxx, Vivica A. Fox, Jasmine Guy, Kevin Daniels, Tisha Campbell and Mickey Rourke in the Comedy. A movie inspired by a dysfunctional family goes off the rails. It’s a spoof of Tyler Perry movies.

“The Image Of You,”

R: Jeff Fisher directs Nestor Carbonell, Mira Sorvino and Sasha Pieterse in the Thriller. The movie is based on a best-selling novel about twin sisters.

Movie opening date information from Internet Movie Database as of May 5 is subject to change.

Three Popcorn Boxes of Five Popcorn Boxes

CONTRIBUTED IMAGE BY LIONSGATE Ahoy! Matey: Henry Cavill (Gus March-Phillipps), “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.”